LAS VEGAS — More than 85% of all Phase II public-safety licensees not located on the Mexican or Canadian borders have signed 800 MHz rebanding agreements, but an international agreement between the United States and Mexico remains lacking.

Rebanding work in the states of Colorado, Utah and Minnesota is complete or nearing completion, said David Furth, deputy chief in the FCC’s public-safety and homeland-security bureau during a session at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference last week. However, it will be some time before other areas of the country are at the same stage, he said.

“We think a number of regions will be able to finish up this year, and others will finish in the early part of 2010,” Furth said in his presentation. “There are others that will take longer, and we recognize that.”

Among the non-border regions, the most difficult areas to complete are those with complex interoperability agreements involving multiple entities, because the timing and coordination of rebanding are critical to ensure that interoperable functionality is maintained while spectral relocation is executed, Furth said.
The FCC granted extensions to licensees in June and will consider further extensions in October, Furth said.

“We will give those licensees and those waiver requests a higher level of scrutiny than we have up to now,” he said. “I think, in most cases — if the licensee can justify it — we will give them additional time. But we will be looking closely at the timeframe and the milestones along the way.”

Overall, 86% of the non-border region licensees in Phase II have signed a rebanding agreement with Sprint Nextel, and 45% of the Phase II licensees have completed rebanding work, Furth said. In the border regions, work along the U.S.-Canada border — scheduled for completion in April 2011 — is well underway, but work cannot begin along the U.S.-Mexico border until the governments of the two countries reach a treaty agreement addressing issues in the band.

“We believe an agreement is achievable in the near future,” Furth said. “I wish I could give you a timetable right now. I cannot do that, but I can tell you that there is no higher priority for the bureau than bringing that home, so we can establish that timetable.”

Recent efforts to forge an 800 MHz agreement — identified as a necessity to complete rebanding in 2004 — have been hampered by the United States transitioning to a new presidential administration and Mexico having significant turnover among its regulatory officials, but that should not be an issue any more, Furth said.

“All the relevant players are in place,” Furth said.