Numerous U.S. licensees operating 800 MHz LMR systems near the Mexican border are seeking extensions to the 30-month timeline proposed by the FCC that calls for the completion of the massive rebanding project in mid-2015, according to filings with the agency.

For technical and political reasons, rebanding along the southern border is expected to be much more difficult than it was along the northern border, which is why licensees are asking for extensions, according to Alan Tilles, who represents many affected licensees as a partner in  the law firm of Shulman Rogers.

"It's the same proposal [that was established for licensees on the U.S.-Canada border]," Tilles said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "We already saw that there wasn't enough time in the Canadian-border area, and it's going to be worse down here, because it's going to be a harder reband. … It's multitudes more complicated than Canada.

"It's very clear that it's unrealistic, so why are we putting unreachable deadlines in this document?"

In a filing with the FCC on behalf of clients, Tilles asked the commission for a total of 10 months in extensions — extensions that he said should be construed as a "minimum," given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, San Diego County also called the FCC timeline "optimistic" in its filing, noting that it shares sites with federal defense users, which typically take two years to approve such spectrum changes before any rebanding work can be done. The county also suggested that Sprint's shutdown of its iDEN networks — scheduled for next year — could have a negative impact on overall system performance.

"The sheriff notes that the timing of Sprint's announced shutdown of their 800 MHz iDEN voice and data network on June 30, 2013, has the potential to adversely impact the coverage of 800 MHz public safety radio systems inside public venues and create an adversarial situation between public safety users and Sprint, and recommends that the [FCC] take steps to mitigate this potential," the filing states.

In 2004, the FCC approved an order to reconfigure the 800 MHz band after receiving reports that commercial cellular signals — primarily from Nextel, which was bought by Sprint — were interfering with public-safety LMR communications. Rebanding was supposed to begin in 2005 and conclude in 2008, but the project has been delayed for numerous reasons during the past eight years.

Rebanding in border areas only could begin after the U.S. reached treaty agreements with Canada and Mexico. The deal with Mexico was signed this summer.