Sprint Nextel and three broadcast trade groups Dec. 6 jointly filed a new plan with the FCC for completing the 2GHz Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) relocation project by August 2009 — five months earlier than originally requested in September.
The company along with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) and the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) told the commission that the timetable laid out in the plan was developed largely out of a BAS Acceleration Summit held Nov. 27. More than 55 senior executives, experts and leaders from the stakeholders in the relocation, including the joint filers, wireless company T-Mobile and Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) licensees TerreStar Networks and ICO Satellite Services, attended. The goal of the meeting was how best to accelerate the BAS relocation while satisfying the needs of this “disparate group of interested parties,” according to the filing.
The filing lays out four steps to accelerate the relocation, including:
- Establishing a monthly market-by-market schedule for the relocation based largely on the market entry requirements of the MSS licensees, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel;
- Setting up benchmarks to speed up BAS frequency relocation agreement negotiations and BAS equipment ordering;
- Reducing the paperwork needed to make final equipment agreements and simplifying the way change orders are handled;
- Creating 200 BAS Acceleration Teams made up of representatives from the broadcast industry and Sprint Nextel “with the goal of facilitating and accelerating” the BAS transition process.
Originally, the FCC had given Sprint Nextel and BAS licensees until Sept. 7 to complete the relocation project. The company and broadcast groups jointly petitioned the commission on Sept. 4 for an additional 29 months to complete the project. The FCC twice waived its deadlines, and on the second occasion, gave the joint petitioners until Nov. 6 to file a consensus plan or specific proposals for completing the BAS relocation.
Missing the original Sept. 7 deadline has the potential to create problems for TerreStar Networks and ICO Satellite Services, which have been assigned spectrum in the BAS band that Sprint Nextel is clearing. Similarly, T-Mobile is concerned that a delay in the relocation, which includes a conversion of BAS licensees from analog to digital transmission, could cause mutual harmful interference between pre-transition analog BAS operations and its adjacent-channel AWS A Block operations.
The plan creates several intermediate completion milestones based on the needs of the stakeholders, including:
- December 2007 — 28 stations in 17 markets completed. Markets include Las Vegas; Harrisburg, PA; and Charlottesville, VA.
- June 2008 — 45 markets completed in total, including five high-priority markets for ICO and TerreStar. Markets include Las Vegas; Salt Lake City; Raleigh, NC; Houston; and Washington, D.C, as well as Tampa Bay, FL, which is one of two markets T-Mobile identified as a top priority.
- Year-end 2008 — More than 500 BAS licensees in 105 DMAs complete the transition.
- June 2009 — A total of 894 stations in 169 markets complete the transition.
- August 2009 — Remaining BAS sites completed.
According to the filing, establishing specific transition dates to specific marketers will simplify planning and “supply chain management for broadcasters, manufacturers, system integrators and installers,” in addition to allowing “ICO, TerreStar, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel to better plan” construction and operations for new wireless services to be deployed “in and near the former BAS band.”