IWCE: Rebanding contentions still exist between administrators, licensees
LAS VEGAS–Tensions ran high yesterday at the 800 MHz rebanding general session at IWCE, where panelists fielded questions about the delays stalling the effort and their effect on public-safety organizations and vendors over the next 15 months.
Brett Haan, deputy program manager for the Transition Administration, or TA, noted that through Wave 2, Stage 2, 58% of all mediations have been resolved and 23% are in the planning stage. Only 3% of the cases have gone to the Federal Communications Commission for recommended resolution, which is “statistically insignificant.”
“That means the parties are working it out themselves,” Haan said. “That is a very important result.”
However, he warned not to rush the planning process, as public-safety systems are complicated and include several moving parts.
“You’ve got to do it once, and you’ve got to do it right,” he said. “Everyone must make sure it’s done appropriately.”
Furthermore, the process continues to move forward, as the TA last week certified Sprint-Nextel’s Wave 1 submission to the FCC, which Haan said is a testament to the hard work from both administrators and licensees. He also noted that mediation is working for all parties. Specifically, in Wave 1, the TA opened 323 mediation cases: 118 are resolved and 139 are in the planning stage. In nearly 48% of such mediations, cost was the primary issue of concern. In comparison, Wave 2 has thus far seen 224 mediations with 47 of those cases currently resolved.
Haan expects the process to be complete within the FCC-mandated timeframe.
This may be an unrealistic, said Steve Proctor, executive director of the Utah Communications Agency Network, or UCAN. His first conversation about rebanding happened during the 2002 Olympic Games. His state has nearly 16,000 radios on the network that need reconfiguration, and 130 government agencies that must be educated about the effects of rebanding, including cost considerations.
“If anyone out there thinks this is a three to six month [planning] process, we’re already into it about 5 years,” Proctor said. “I don’t seen the end coming super quick from my perspective.”
Vendors who ramped up hardware and manpower to appropriately service the rebanding process also wonder when they will begin to recover some of their investment in the reconfiguration process. When asked, Haan responded that the fact vendors are not getting paid is part of what he called a “rumor” mill and that those vendors with contracts will be paid.
Many licensees are ready to move to the new band but are in a holding pattern waiting for approval from Sprint-Nextel. When pressed on the issue, Haan commented that the TA is working closely with all parties to resolve any pending issues to further move the process along.
“Several public-safety licensees are ready to go, and I think the major issue for those licensees that are ready to go is knowing what sort of timing they are going to have once they begin to move,” said Wanda McCarley, president of APCO International. “Overwhelmingly, when I talk to public safety who have begun the process and have gotten to the point where they are ready to move, they are certainly anxious to get this behind them and get on with their regular jobs.”