TA alters rebanding schedule
Faced with numerous requests to provide more time for licensees and Sprint Nextel to reach negotiated 800 MHz rebanding agreements, the Transition Administrator proposed delaying the mandatory negotiating period for most public-safety entities affected by the relocation process.
Under the proposal, the mandatory negotiating period for Wave 1 800 MHz licensees operating in NPSPAC channels would end on Oct. 31 instead of the July 31 date in the current schedule, according to a letter the TA sent to the FCC last month. In the letter, the TA noted that it would take eight months for all licensees to negotiate rebanding deals with Sprint Nextel, based on the pace that Wave 1 licensees operating in Channels 1-120 signed agreements.
“Further, it is expected that public-safety agreements will generally take longer to complete than agreements with commercial entities,” the TA said in its letter.
The TA also recommended that Wave 2 licensees begin voluntary negotiations on Aug. 1 — a three-month delay from the start date in the previous schedule — and Wave 3 voluntary negotiations would begin on Nov. 1, one month later than previously planned.
In a public notice, the FCC approved the Wave 2 and Wave 3 schedule changes, but the FCC had not acted on the TA’s proposed timetable for Wave 1 as of press time. However, several sources close to the situation privately said they expected the agency also would approve the Wave 1 proposal, noting that it would not impact the 36-month deadline that calls for rebanding to be completed during the summer of 2008.
Both Sprint Nextel and major public-safety entities such as the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) expressed support for the proposed delay for the mandatory negotiation period in letters to the FCC.
“There’s competing interests here,” said Robert Gurss, APCO’s director of legal and government affairs. “On the one hand, we need to fix [the 800 MHz interference] problem as quickly as possible. On the other hand, we need to make sure it’s done properly and all the parties have an opportunity to negotiate fair agreements.”
In addition to proposing changes to the existing schedule, the TA established the first schedule for 800 MHz licensees to submit requests for planning funding (RFPF). A TA spokesman said the RFPF deadlines were established because the number of planning-funding requests submitted to date has been less than public-safety officials have indicated are needed. “We’re trying to remind the parties that it’s in their best interests to get [RFPF submittals] done as soon as possible,” he said.
Of course, none of the schedule changes affect the most important factor in the timing of Wave 4 rebanding: the U.S. signing international treaties with Canada and Mexico that must be finalized before 800 MHz licensees in border regions can relocate to new spectrum.
With no public indication of progress in treaty negotiations, National Public Safety Telecommunications Council Chairman Vincent Stile wrote a letter to the FCC noting that failure to reach treaties would prevent border regions from relocating and would impact interoperability over mutual-aid channels with other nearby public-safety entities.
“If a region within a state cannot relocate because of the lack of updated cross-border protocols, this core capability to communicate with agencies in the adjacent region disappears,” Stile wrote in the letter, noting a similar impact on statewide 800 MHz systems. “The domino effect of not updating the protocols will result in serious degeneration of established service standards.”
While much of the focus has been placed on negotiation processes, Cloar said Sprint Nextel had indicated that 70% of the Wave 1 spectrum had been cleared and the TA had received closing documents for about 50% of those licensees. All Wave 1, Stage 1, licensees have signed rebanding agreements except four, which have had their cases referred to the FCC.
|Licensees affected||Initial schedule||New schedule|
|Wave 1, Stage 2||Feb. 1||May 1 *|
|Wave 2, Stage 2||April 1||Aug. 1|
|Wave 3, Stage 2||Oct. 1||Nov. 1|
|* As of press time, the FCC had not approved the TA’s proposed schedule change for Wave 1. TA officials stress that licensees should adhere to the existing schedule unless the FCC rules otherwise.|
|Source: Transition Administrator|