Panel: Bad economy not expected to slow 800 MHz rebanding
ORLANDO—Key players in 800 MHz rebanding may face uncertain futures amid the economic downturn, but even worst-case scenarios should not jeopardize the reconfiguration process in the band, representatives of the 800 MHz Transition Administrator said yesterday during a panel discussion at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Winter Summit.
Moderator Alan Tilles—a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker—noted that the letter of credit that Sprint Nextel has used to guarantee its ability to fund rebanding expires in June. Sprint Nextel’s John Wehmann said public-safety agencies do not have to worry about the massive rebanding project lacking funds in the future.
“Those letters of credit will be renewed, and that process has already started—they fall under a larger bank-credit facility that Sprint Nextel has set up with a consortium of banks,” Wehmann said. “There is no uncertainty about it—it will be renewed.”
When the FCC approved the rebanding order in 2004, it required the carrier—then Nextel Communications—to establish a $2.5 billion letter of credit to ensure that rebanding funds would be available, even if the carrier went bankrupt. As the rebanding has progressed, the FCC has allowed Sprint Nextel to reduce the debt obligation in the letter of credit while ensuring that money will be available to finish the reconfiguration effort.
Even if one of the banks supporting the letter of credit were to fail—a hypothetical scenario mentioned by Tilles—800 MHz public-safety licensees would still have the funds necessary to complete rebanding, Wehmann said.
“There are a large number of banks participating, and if one happens to have issues, the others have agreements in place to step up and cover that,” he said.
Meanwhile, BearingPoint—the firm heading the project management of rebanding—has struggled financially during the past year, with the company’s stock price dipping below 50 cents per share. When Tilles asked whether the TA could continue to operate if BearingPoint has problems, TA attorney Robert Kelly said he does not believe it is something public-safety licensees need to worry about.
“I think it is probably inappropriate to speculate about BearingPoint, but we’re confident that the TA can perform its obligations under any circumstances that may reasonably arise,” Kelly said. “Really, there should be no basis for any anxiety about that.”