Public-safety agencies and other operators of 800 MHz radio systems located along the U.S.-Mexico border continue to keep their rebanding plans on hold, as they wait for the governments of the United States and Mexico to reach agreement on the spectrum plan for the band.

This week, the FCC issued a three-month extension for affected 800 MHz licensees to take their first tangible steps toward rebanding their LMR networks. Such extensions have been approved regularly for years by the FCC, which has no control over the timetable for the U.S. and Mexico to reach a treaty agreement.

"There's a proposal that's the subject of negotiations, and that proposal basically would be to ensure that the international agreement with Mexico would be consistent with the rebanding plan we have in the U.S.," David Furth, deputy chief in the FCC's public safety and homeland security bureau, said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "We have a plan; the question is getting the Mexicans to agree to it."

The need to negotiate a deal with Mexico has been known since 2004, when the FCC issued its rebanding order to alleviate interference between commercial wireless companies — most notably, Nextel Communications, which is now part of Sprint Nextel — and private LMR radio systems, including those used by public-safety agencies.

Initially, 800 MHz rebanding was supposed to be completed during the summer of 2008, but the massive project has taken much longer than projected. Almost all non-border public-safety licensees have signed rebanding agreements with Sprint Nextel, but more than 30% have yet to complete the rebanding process, according to the latest report from the carrier.

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