Sprint Nextel asked the FCC March 7 to extend its September 2007 deadline for completion of the 2GHz TV Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) relocation project by one to two years.
The request, part of its BAS Relocation Status Report to the commission, comes after consulting with "BAS equipment vendors, integrators, contractors, satellite operators and the broadcast community."
In the report, Sprint Nextel characterized the company's progress on moving TV BAS licensees — broadcasters currently using 1990MHz to 2110MHz for electronic newsgathering — to new 12MHz digital channels between 2025MHz and 2110MHz as "significant."
Signs of that progress include having all eligible BAS licensees "engaged" in the process; "virtually all" with submitted inventories of their existing BAS equipment; and 80 percent with Sprint Nextel-verified inventories, the report said. Both the company and BAS licensees are now "making rapid progress in the preparation and review of quotes from manufacturers and vendors for implementing the relocation."
Sprint Nextel is responsible for a "complex, multiparty effort" to transition about 1000 BAS licensees, the report said. So far, two markets — Yuma, AZ, and Lima, OH — have completely transitioned to the new 2GHz band plan. Those transitions demonstrate that the new BAS equipment can meet the needs of broadcasters and that relocation can be implemented without disrupting ongoing ENG operations.
Neither Designated Market Area, however, "is representative of the more complex major markets or the country as a whole," the report cautioned.
The report presented the commission with statistics to quantify the scope of the company's efforts. To date, the company has spent more than $186 million to pay for an inventory of more than 12,000 pieces of BAS RF equipment. That includes 6000 transmitters and receivers, 4000 controllers and about 2000 antennas and antenna upgrades.
Despite adding staff and working out "template contracts with all major broadcast group licensees," which together account for 65 percent of all BAS licensees, the effort continues to progress, but more slowly that anticipated. As of the filing, the company had completed Frequency Relocation Agreements (FRAs) with 22 percent of all TV BAS licensees, compared to 1 percent of all licensees in February 2006.
As the transition effort has progressed, "complications and delays" developed during the negotiation of FRAs with broadcasters, the report said. Some broadcasters expressed concern over potential property and income tax liabilities raised as a consequence of receiving new digital BAS equipment. According to the filing, despite not being required to indemnify licensees against these potential liabilities, Sprint Nextel "successfully worked with the broadcast industry to find ways to address these concerns."
According to the filing, the relocation project "has proven far more complex than originally anticipated." In asking for the extension, the company said "unforeseen, unavoidable complications in the transition have impeded progress in transitioning all DMAs by the originally anticipated date…Sprint Nextel anticipates requiring an additional 12 to 24 months to complete the BAS transition."
The company's FCC filing also included declarations from others involved in the BAS relocation effort demonstrating that the project is moving forward. For example, the declaration of John Dulany, director of sales and marketing for Nucomm, said the company had partnered with Comtech EF Data in Tempe, AZ, and increased its own New Jersey-based workforce by more than 80 percent to accommodate the production demand for equipment brought on by the transition.
A declaration from Daniel McIntyre, VP of Microwave Radio Communications, said the company had increased the number of its employees by 40 percent "to handle various aspects of the BAS retuning."
At NAB2007 in Las Vegas, Sprint Nextel VP of Spectrum Development Mike Degitz will speak April 15 to present the broadcast industry with an update on the 2GHz transition. The company will also have representatives available to meet with broadcasters during the convention.