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FCC Extends Sprint-Nextel 2 GHz BAS Deadline Again

As part of the reallocation of 5 MHz of the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) spectrum allocated for the 2 GHz mobile satellite service (MSS) to Nextel in 2004, Nextel and its successor, Sprint Nextel, were required to complete the relocation of BAS users from the lower two channels of the 2 GHz BAS band to a new band plan with narrower channels requiring digital modulation to achieve similar picture quality.

The deadline for the relocation was Sept. 7, 2007, but that deadline was not met. Sprint Nextel, the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), NAB and the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) filed a Joint Petition asking the FCC to waive the transition deadline for an additional twenty-nine months.

While considering the petition, the FCC expended the deadline to Nov. 6, 2007, but that deadline was not met either. In an Order (FCC 07-193) released Nov. 6, the FCC extended the deadline by 60 days to Jan. 5, 2008.

While it is unlikely this deadline will be met, the FCC is concerned that TerreStar Networks is required to have its satellite system operational in the spectrum being reallocated from 2 GHz BAS by Dec. 31, 2007 and TerreStar is required to have its system operational by November 2008. While ICO has requested an extension of its deadline to Feb. 15, 2008, both systems would still be required to be operational before the 2 GHz BAS relocation is completed based on the delay requested by the broadcasters and Sprint Nextel.

The FCC said that it had pushed for further dialog on the matter, as it was in the public interest for “a consensus plan or specific proposals that allow the MSS licensee to initiate service in the band while avoiding MSS-BAS interference and continuing the BAS transition.”

The FCC asked Sprint Nextel, MSTV, NAB and SBE to continue consulting with other interested parties to develop a detailed plan for completing the 2 GHz transition within 30 days of the current deadline.

It appears unlikely the FCC will accept a 29 month delay in allowing MSS licensees access to 2 GHz frequencies below 2025 MHz, although it isn't clear how BAS and MSS operators could share the two existing channels or whether the transition can be completed in less than 29 months. All parties have an interest in making the 2 GHz relocation work. Broadcasters need sufficient time and money to replace analog 2 GHz transmitters and receivers. Sprint Nextel wants to be sure it has access to 5 MHz of the 2 GHz spectrum and that expenses incurred in the 2 GHz BAS transition are deducted from its payment for that spectrum. MSS operators are very concerned about the impact 2 GHz BAS could have on the 2 GHz receivers on their satellites. They don't want to have satellites in orbit wasting fuel while broadcasters are clearing the band. It will be interesting to see the specific plan or proposals for 2 GHz BAS relocation from broadcasters, Sprint Nextel and MSS operators.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.