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FCC sets new deadline for completion of 2GHz BAS relocation

The Federal Communications Commission last week postponed the date for completion of the 2GHz Broadcast Auxiliary Service relocation to Feb. 8, 2010.

Originally scheduled to be completed in fall 2007, the project covers seven analog microwave channels between 1990MHz and 2110MHz primarily used by television stations for electronic news gathering (ENG) transmission. When completed, all 2GHz BAS licensees will operate on digital channels packed between 2025MHz and 2110MHz, freeing up spectrum for new services, including mobile satellite services (MSS), advanced wireless service (AWS) and cell phone service.

With its Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted June 10 and released June 12, the FCC also did away with a rule that prevented MSS operators from beginning service till the BAS relocation is completed in the top 30 markets; authorized MSS operators to begin using spectrum before compensating Sprint Nextel for their share of the expense of relocating BAS operators; allow MSS operators to begin operations in markets that have not completed the transition; and sought comment on how the commission proposes to deal with BAS licensees that have not completed their relocation by Feb. 9, 2010.

Noting the interlocking nature of the BAS transition where multiple resources and licensees in several markets can be affected by a single BAS licensee that has not been relocated, the commission sought comment on changing the status of the BAS licensee for the purpose of interference.

Specifically, the commission asked for comment on various proposed methods of dealing with non-relocated BAS incumbents, including:

  • Changing their status to secondary in the 1990-2025MHz band and granting primary status to Sprint Nextel, MSS and AWS providers as of Feb. 9, 2010;
  • Requiring them to discontinue using the 1990-2025MHz band as of Feb. 9, 2010;
  • Granting co-primary status to both non-relocated BAS licensees and new entrants, including Sprint Nextel, MSS and AWS service providers.

The commission also asked for comment on how it should look upon waiver requests from non-relocated BAS incumbents if changing their status to secondary or making them halt operations were to be chosen.

The Report and Order’s provision eliminating the top 30 market rule balances the desire of MSS operators to begin offering service without “unfairly burden(ing) BAS licensees who have been allowed to remain in the band until relocated by new entrants or until their primary status sunsets, ” the commission said.

The Report and Order also strikes a compromise between allowing MSS operators to begin offering service in non-relocated markets and protecting of BAS operations from interference. The document specifies MSS operators entering the band must “take all actions to correct interference, up to and including curtailing operation in and around the affected market.”

The commission placed several obligations on MSS operators, including:

  • Successfully coordinating operation with non-relocated BAS incumbents;
  • Prohibiting the marketing of MSS service to the public in markets where the BAS transition has not been completed;
  • Not allowing MSS entrants to operate ATC networks in markets where the transition hasn’t occurred.

The commission also restricted the use of MSS terminals operating in markets adjacent to those that have not completed the BAS relocation.

In the document, the commission also re-iterated the obligation of MSS operators to compensate Sprint Nextel for their portion of the BAS relocation expenses, but departed from its general policy that would normally require the MSS operators to reimburse Sprint Nextel before entering the cleared spectrum or shortly after entering. The BAS relocation is different from other similar circumstances in which it was possible to estimate “with a reasonable amount of certainty well in advance of issuing licenses to new entrants” their cost sharing obligation. In the Further Notice, the commission sought comment on the reimbursement issue.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.