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FCC Revises BAS Relocation Order

Under the FCC's revised 2 GHz re-allocation order, broadcasters in small markets may not have to replace their ENG equipment.

The order, in the works for several years, gives two of the seven channels in the 2 GHz spectrum currently used for BAS to Mobile-Satellite Service (MSS) providers. Originally, the order required all broadcasters to reduce their BAS bandwidth-used primarily for ENG and to a lesser extent for fixed links-by 5 MHz to 12 MHz. To achieve the reduction without compromising quality or losing audio channels, broadcasters would have to buy new transmitters, encoders and receivers. Stations in the top 30 DMAs were given the opportunity to negotiate with MSS licensees for relocation compensation before they had to move, but stations in markets 31 and above were left to their own devices. Under the revised rulemaking, broadcasters can continue using legacy 17 MHz equipment in markets where all parties involved can fit into the five remaining channels.

The relocation timeline is contingent on when the first MSS providers begin operations. Once the order is published in the Federal Register around one month from now, BAS users in the top 30 markets and fixed-link licensees in all markets enter a mandatory one-year relocation negotiation period with MSS providers. After that, BAS incumbents may be involuntarily relocated. When BAS relocation is complete in markets 1-30, MSS providers that can't share spectrum with BAS users may begin operations in the 2000-2020 MHz band.

When the first top 30 MSS provider begins operations, all BAS users in markets 31- 210 must immediately cease operations on channels 1 and 2 (1990-2025 MHz), and a one-year mandatory negotiation period will kick in between MSS providers and BAS users in markets 31-210. Again, MSS providers can toss BAS users off the channels 1 and 2 after one year if negotiations are unsuccessful. Those not displaced in markets 31-100 will be required to move within in three years of the date when the first MSS provider begins operations; in markets 101-210, relocation is required within five years.

After 10 years, MSS providers will no longer be required to assist in BAS relocations. At that time, any remaining BAS operations in channels 1 and 2 will operate on a secondary basis.