In an effort to accelerate progress in 800 MHz rebanding, the Transition Administrator yesterday announced a program that will let work on public-safety licensees’ subscriber units begin before all negotiations with Sprint Nextel are completed.

Previously, rebanding work on subscriber equipment could not begin until after all rebanding negotiations were finalized, resulting often in delays of several months while the licensees and Sprint Nextel discuss the details of contract and frequently enter a mandatory mediation process.

Typically, most negotiation disputes revolve around work associated with a licensee’s network infrastructure, not its subscriber equipment. Under the new subscriber equipment deployment (SED) initiative announced by the Transition Administrator, licensees will be given the opportunity to retune mobile and portable radios prior to the completion of all negotiations with Sprint Nextel, TA spokesman Bryan Cloar said.

Prior to beginning work on subscriber units—whether the tasks involve replacing equipment or installing software into existing devices—the licensee and Sprint Nextel must negotiate an agreement that will serve as the beginning of an FRA, Cloar said.

In an attempt to simplify the process, the TA has established a standard level of effort (LOE) for each potential task involved in rebanding subscriber equipment. This effort level—for instance, the amount of time to install new software in some radio—is multiplied by the payment rate of those involved in the work to determine the amount Sprint Nextel would pay.

“If the licensee submits that request and their activities fall within the standard levels of effort that we’ve provided, then the expectation is that Sprint Nextel and the licensee will enter into an agreement without further negotiations on those activities, on the time requirement or on the associated costs,” Cloar said. “That’s the critical piece. We’re trying to expedite those negotiations, so [the licensee] can commence this activity sooner than they otherwise would have.”

Last year, the TA established a “fast-track” program for planning-funding agreements that required licensees to meet certain cost thresholds in order to participate. However, the program was not as successful as hoped, because few public-safety licensees could meet the criteria.

That will not be the case with the SED program. If a licensee’s proposed costs exceed the standard LOEs established for the program, the licensee still can participate in the program after justifying the additional costs to Sprint Nextel and the TA, Cloar said.

Although participation in the SED program is voluntary, Cloar said the TA believes the program will be beneficial to most public-safety licensees that have not completed an FRA with Sprint Nextel or are on the verge of finalizing such an agreement.

“This is a significant new option,” TA Director Brett Haan said in a prepared statement. “Licensees and vendors are now able to start implementation activities earlier and spread the work over a longer period of time. The intent of this effort is also to simplify negotiations. Requests fitting within the standard provided should require no further negotiations over the costs and tasks.”