Rebanding gives smart dealers boost
By now, I’m sure you’re aware of the settlement between Nextel and Verizon Wireless and the latter’s agreement not to pursue its objection to the FCC’s 800 MHz order. In addition, you’re most likely aware of the finding of the Government Accountability Office that the decision did not violate federal law and that the order finally has been published in the Federal Register.
On this basis, it’s pretty fair to say that — a few clarifications aside — we’re about to embark on this rebanding thing. A nightmare for some, manna from heaven for others, it will keep the industry humming for the next three years. While this should result in some short-term security for private radio equipment dealers, this is probably a good time to reflect on how best to spend these three years to ensure continued prosperity.
From the informal surveys I’ve taken, it appears that at least 90% of public-safety entities will be outsourcing their rebanding work. As a result, there will be many land mobile dealers who will be meeting public-safety licensees for the first time. Because more and more public-safety agencies are outsourcing their regular system maintenance, this appears to be a good opportunity for radio dealers to develop relationships with them that can last many, many years.
Given this opportunity, it is incumbent on radio dealers to show public-safety agencies everything they can do. Beyond just re-tuning radios, radio dealers will need to demonstrate knowledge of, and sensitivity to, the real concerns and needs of first responders. Dealers who can establish these relationships may have customers for life.
To get started, radio dealers should develop lists of public-safety agencies that are required to re-tune. Begin establishing relationships now, pay attention to municipality Web sites where requests for proposals might be posted, and appear at industry events where you can mingle. For example, the IWCE’s 800 MHz Road Shows turned out to be excellent venues for the exchange of views, thoughts and business cards.
By the time you read this, we will have established on our Web site (www.800mhzrebanding.com) a database of radio dealers and consultants that are interested in performing rebanding work nationwide. I’m sure other similar lists will develop. Seize the opportunity to let others know you’re out there, and that you have some real capabilities and expertise that will be helpful in the process.
In addition, start planning now for what your company will be after rebanding. Will you take advantage of the multiplicity of new technologies that are now coming on-line? Will you be able to offer customers expertise in every area of wireless? Will VoIP, WISP, WiMAX, BDA and mesh be part of your everyday lingo? Will you have the ability to construct a public-safety agency’s 4.9 GHz and 700 MHz radio system?
This year’s IWCE convention in Las Vegas will be interesting for several reasons. First, it appears the meeting might coincide with the first notices to licensees that will be required to reband. Given the number of licensees that virtually have ignored the process, I would expect much educational work will need to be done in Las Vegas.
For example, one of the 800 MHz Road Show attendees told me that he attempted to convince a fellow licensee to join him at the session. The licensee declined, saying that since he had a license, no one could move him. As this licensee, and others, wakes up to reality, there will most likely be a rush to figure out where everyone fits into this landscape.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio, Internet and entertainment industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.