Sprint Nextel’s spectrum-capacity issues will not be the cause of 800 MHz public-safety licensees rebanding, although it is clear that a “blueprint” for implementing the frequency exchanges is needed, a top official for the company said.

Some public-safety officials have questioned why no NPSPAC licensees in the 800 MHz band have been moved to their new frequencies—Channels 1-120—more than 21 months into the program, which was scheduled to be completed in 36 months. Transition Administrator (TA) Director Brett Haan said he has seen no evidence that any public-safety entities are ready to be reconfigured, but concerns persist that Sprint Nextel’s acknowledged spectrum constraints on its iDEN network will slow the process.

Larry Krevor, Sprint Nextel's vice president of government affairs for spectrum, said that Sprint Nextel will not cause delays to rebanding—a process the carrier is fully committed to completing.

“A lot of comments get made … as to what extent we are the gating factor,” Krevor said during an interview last week with MRT during IWCE in Las Vegas. “I want to emphasize that we will not be the gating factor in the retunes.”

But public-safety licensees may not be able to reband their systems as soon as they are ready, because the reconfigurations need to be coordinated to address a number of factors, including public-safety interoperability agreements and the need for Sprint Nextel to have appropriate frequencies for its network, Krevor said.

“It was never a retune-whenever-you-feel-like program; it was always all about [spectrum] swaps,” Krevor said.

With this in mind, Krevor said it is crucial that the FCC act on a joint request from NPSPAC licensees and Sprint Nextel to have the TA identify public-safety entities that can move this year and establish benchmarks for future progress. Krevor used a construction analogy to explain the importance of such direction.

“We’re trying to build a building without a blueprint, and you have to keep the building functional while this is being done,” he said. “The missing piece is the blueprint, or the plan.”

And rebanding so many public-safety entities simultaneously is an unprecedented undertaking, the difficulties of which have become increasingly clear during the past several months, Krevor said. While clearing primarily commercial licensees from Channels 1-120 was done relatively smoothly—most systems could be taken off the air for at least some period of time—logistical realities associated with mission-critical public-safety communications systems make Phase II a much more challenging endeavor, he said.

“[Rebanding NPSPAC licensees] is a lot more complicated,” Krevor said, noting that rebanding a fire truck’s radio effectively means that the vehicle cannot be used for a day. “They don’t have loaner fire trucks.

“I think all the parties didn’t fully appreciate what we had not done until we were upon it.”

Such logistics also have added complexity to the negotiation process, which has seen about 90% of all NPSPAC licensees enter mandatory mediation after failing to reach a rebanding deal with Sprint Nextel.

“The way the process has morphed is that the negotiating period is not where the action is happening; it’s happening in mediation,” Krevor said. “[Mediation] is producing agreements. Whether it’s the optimal way to get there is another matter, but it’s working.”