Keeping licenses current is key
We’re now several months past the one-year milestone for 800 MHz reconfiguration and knee-deep into completing Frequency Reconfiguration Agreements, or FRAs, with public-safety licensees (Phase 2). Earlier this year, the FCC extended the mandatory negotiating period for Phase 2, Wave 1 by three months. According to the new guidelines, these licensees have until Nov. 1, to complete FRAs with Sprint Nextel.
There are issues that frequently have arisen with licensees in the past about ways these issues can be resolved. Typically, a licensee completes only one agreement. On the other hand, Sprint Nextel must complete hundreds of these agreements with licensees. This experience, and lessons learned, may be helpful during future negotiations.
But first, let me provide an update on what has been completed.
We’ve made significant progress with Phase 1 licensees for Waves 1-3. However, Wave 4 continues to be problematic because retuning in the border regions of the U.S. awaits the completion of channel plans through negotiations between our government, Mexico and Canada. This holds true for Phase 2, Wave 4 as well.
Currently, a significant number of Phase 2 NPSPAC licensees do not appear to be involved in reconfiguration negotiations. Phase 2, Wave 1 contains approximately 424 licensees, many of them with large, complex systems in major metropolitan areas. Of this total, more than half have not completed either an FRA or submitted a Request for Planning Funding (RFPF) to the Transition Administrator (TA).
Sprint Nextel strongly recommends that all licensees make certain that their current licenses with the FCC are in good order. Licenses are not granted for an indefinite period of time and must be periodically renewed, including those held by public safety. Occasionally, agreements arrive at Sprint Nextel, and it is discovered that existing licenses have been terminated or frequencies on the license are no longer valid. This situation can become particularly serious if another licensee has applied to use those frequencies. If you are not certain about the status of your licenses, use the FCC database immediately to confirm that your existing licenses are valid.
Some licensees are availing themselves of the planning-funding process, by which public-safety licensees may apply for funding to assist in planning for reconfiguration. Licensees must submit any deliverables that are part of the planning funding process before submitting an FRA. For example, if an intermodulation (IM) study is required, this must be identified and conducted in advance of an FRA. If the IM study is included in the planning funding process, licensees must be certain to deliver the study results to Sprint Nextel.
Many public licensees have decided to use outside consultants to assist in reconfiguration activities. However, ultimately, the public-safety license holder is accountable for all requirements of the agreement. At a minimum, all FRAs must include a system description, a subscriber count and the number of sites, as well as a start and completion date. If you have worked with a consultant, be certain to complete a thorough examination of the data before submitting your FRA.
Finally, at the APCO conference in August, a number of licensees commented on the complexity of retuning mutual-aid channels. When Sprint Nextel meets with licensees, we ask them to let us know whether they share frequencies with surrounding jurisdictions. These suggestions are not a complete formula for successful completion of an FRA. But eliminating these matters will help the process move quicker. We encourage public-safety licensees with any unanswered retuning questions or concerns to contact us at [email protected].
This process can be challenging for public safety. But we all need to keep in mind that reconfiguration is about eliminating interference to public safety at 800 MHz. We need to work together to get this job done right.
Sandy Edwards is Sprint Nextel’s vice president for spectrum resources.