FCC addresses sharing costs of 2GHz BAS relocation project

The journey to transition the nation’s Broadcast Auxiliary Service licensees from the 1990-2110MHz band to 2025-2110MHz band passed a remaining milestone Sept. 29 with the FCC’s adoption of an order and declaratory ruling to address uncertainties over who bears what financial obligations for the relocation project.

While Sprint Nextel, which shouldered the cost of relocating some 800 BAS licensees using the band for ENG and other point-to-point microwave operations, actually finished transitioning the last of the markets to relocate in mid-July, the commission’s action addresses the company’s “inability to agree with Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) operators in the band on the sharing of the costs to relocate the BAS incumbents,” said the order and declaratory ruling.

The issue is made complex by the repeated delays and subsequent extensions of the 2GHz BAS completion deadline, an FCC reallocation of some spectrum freed up by the relocation as well as conflicting interpretations of commission orders throughout the lengthy process.

The commission originally authorized the 35MHz freed up by the relocation for use by MSS uplink operations, but in 2003 reallocated 15MHz of the spectrum for terrestrial use. The next year, Nextel — which is now Sprint Nextel — received a license to use 5MHz of the newly reallocated 15MHz. The remaining 10MHz was reserved for future Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) use. Sprint Nextel took on the obligation of relocating BAS incumbents and at the same time separately participated in a realignment of the 800MHz band to resolve interference issues with public safety licensees.

According to MSS entrants, specific language in the 800MHz Report and Order should be interpreted to mean that their obligation to share in the cost of relocating 2GHz BAS licensees ended if they didn’t enter the band by June 26, 2008, which was the original date for the end of the 35-month 800MHz reconfiguration.

In its order and declaratory ruling, the commission rejected this assertion. Due to delays, the 800MHz reconfiguration has taken longer than anticipated and is not yet completed. “According to the Commission’s orders, the MSS and AWS entrants’ obligation to reimburse Sprint Nextel for BAS relocation costs expires either at the end of the 800MHz band reconfiguration or at the 800MHz true-up. Because neither of these events has occurred, the MSS and AWS entrants continue to have an obligation to reimburse Sprint Nextel for the BAS relocation cost it has incurred,” the order and declaratory ruling said.

The commission, however, said it believes it is in the best interest of all parties to extinguish cost-sharing obligations on a certain date. The FCC selected Dec. 9, 2013, the band sunset date, to end the obligation.