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01.25.2006 03:36PM
2 GHz Relocation: The Road Ahead
Sprint Nextel has ambitious plans for the BAS transition in 2006

RESTON, VA: At Sprint Nextel, we are making a New Year's resolution that hopefully many of you will share.

No, it has nothing to do with losing those few extra pounds picked up over the holidays. Our resolution is to continue our progress on 2 GHz relocation by completing our first TV market relocations and kicking-off the remaining TV markets.

PROGRESS MADE

But unlike many attempts to lose weight, the good news is that we're all poised to make good on this goal. Over the past year, there has been significant progress made on the FCC's mandate to upgrade 2 GHz transmission facilities, involving most broadcasters and fixed link service users operating in the 1990-2110 MHz spectrum band. Relocation has been successfully initiated in 99 markets, with 75 in the inventory stage and 24 in contract negotiations. Overall, more than half of the affected broadcasters are already officially engaged in relocation. These statistics are a clear indication of the progress and cooperation between broadcasters and Sprint Nextel last year.

The key to a successful relocation is completing a Frequency Relocation Agreement (FRA). An FRA is designed to document the equipment and services required for a station's relocation and how the broadcaster's costs will be reimbursed.

As I outlined in the last column (Nov. 9, 2005), relocation begins with broadcasters conducting self-inventories of existing equipment, entering the data into the 2 GHz Relocation Inventory Tool (https://inventory.2ghzrelocation.com). The results thus far are encouraging: More than 520 broadcasters have submitted inventories to Sprint Nextel and more than half of those inventories have been verified, reviewed and "locked"--meaning that Sprint Nextel and the station have agreed on which items are eligible for compensation.

An exact inventory prepares broadcasters for the next step of developing and signing the FRA. With many stations entering this important phase, I'd like to provide an overview of what broadcasters can expect.

ESTIMATING COSTS

Once the inventory is set, it's time for broadcasters and Sprint Nextel to figure out the cost of relocation. This initially involves broadcasters soliciting quotes from manufacturers for big-ticket equipment, service providers for labor services and other vendors for ancillary equipment. Sprint Nextel expects quote packages to be returned to Sprint Nextel within 35 calendar days from the time the broadcaster agrees to their verified inventory. This is an involved process, which includes soliciting quotes from third parties, creating soft cost estimates and seeking corporate approval of the quote package for group-owned stations. The good news for broadcasters is that they have a great resource in their Sprint Nextel Regional Team that is available to provide assistance on assembling quote packages. You can visit www.2GHzRelocation.com to find contacts in your area. In addition, Sprint Nextel provides a Broadcaster Information Guide and an Excel-based quote tool to assist in compiling the required information.

The quote package provides all the pricing and documentation information to create the FRA terms (see Fig. 1). It's important to note that soliciting quotes from the manufacturers should now be a fairly streamlined task; they are now well-versed in the process, making "clean" quotes that are easily approved.

In addition to quotes for tangible items, stations separately estimate the remaining soft costs, which include engineering, project management, legal labor conducted internally or contracted from a third party; as well as consumable items such as gaffer tape or small hardware. Soft costs plus manufacturer quotes are bundled into the quote package and submitted to the Sprint Nextel Spectrum Resource Manager in each region.

PACKAGE AGREEMENT

Sprint Nextel then reviews the equipment allocations for consistency with the station inventory and verifies quotes from the manufacturers and service providers. If broadcasters choose to use this opportunity to upgrade their equipment or "upsell," (at their own expense), Sprint Nextel will also handle those distinctions and calculations.

The final step is when the broadcaster and Sprint Nextel agree on the quote package, refine the terms of the FRA and sign it. Once the FRA is signed, broadcasters can begin buying and installing equipment and sending monthly invoices for reimbursement.

While the 2 GHz Relocation is off to a good start, we still have a lot of work in front of us. Like any New Year's resolution, the hardest part is not the beginning, but making it last through to next year. Together, we can stick to the program, sign FRAs across the country and make good on this important initiative.


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