NAB, MSTV Join Nextel in 2 GHz Relocation Proposal

The Association for Maximum Service Telecasters (MSTV) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have joined with Nextel in proposing a plan for moving broadcasters out of the 1990-2025 MHz portion of the broadcast auxiliary service (BAS) band. Under the proposal, Nextel would reimburse broadcasters for the cost of moving out of this spectrum and upgrading or replacing equipment to allow BAS operation using the same number of channels, but with reduced bandwidth, in the remaining portion of the 2 GHz BAS band. The reduction in channel bandwidth from 17 MHz to 12 MHz will require switching from analog transmission using FM to digital transmission using higher order modulation methods such as 16QAM COFDM. The joint proposal by MSTV, NAB and Nextel would allow all markets to retain seven channels in the 2 GHz band and would be staged to avoid interference between markets that had moved to new band plan and those that hadn't.

As reported previously in RF Report, the FCC plan would initially only reimburse broadcasters in the top 30 markets for clearing the 1990-2025 MHz band. Stations in smaller markets would either have to pay for the conversion themselves, possibly leading to interference with other broadcasters in the market, or operate under the old band plan but with only five channels, which would lead to interference with BAS operations in adjacent top 30 markets or with ENG crews from top 30 markets visiting the smaller markets.

The joint proposal has two stages to alleviate this problem. In the first stage, Nextel would relocate BAS operations in markets where it wants to begin operating immediately and also relocate BAS operations in adjacent markets "that raise inter-market coordination and interference problems." In the second stage, BAS operations in the remaining markets would be relocated. Under the plan, broadcasters in the markets included in the second stage would be able to use all existing BAS frequencies (seven channels) until they are relocated to seven smaller channels in the 2025-2110 MHz.

If the FCC approves the Joint Proposed BAS Relocation Plan, MSTV, NAB, SBE and other interested broadcast parties would work together to develop an implementation plan that would address the timing of the relocations, measures to avoid disruption to ENG services during the transition, and measures to facilitate an expeditious and efficient relocation process. The joint proposal said broadcasters and Nextel would work together, to the extent permitted by antitrust laws, "to preserve choice and maximize economies of scale in equipment purchases..."

In case you are wondering why Nextel would want to pay for the 2 GHz BAS relocation, under the joint proposal Nextel would have to receive spectrum in the 1910-1915 MHz and 1990-1995 MHz bands and receive full credit for its contributions to the cost of the BAS relocation in the FCC's pending 800 MHz Public Safety proceeding. Nextel is currently using frequencies in the 800 MHz band that are close enough to public safety frequencies to cause interference. Under the Nextel "Consensus Plan", the 800 MHz spectrum would be realigned to "address the underlying cause of CMRS-public safety interference. It would also provide additional spectrum for public safety communications."

In addition to the Joint Proposed BAS Relocation Plan, refer to the MSTV Press Release on the plan and Comments of the Society of Broadcast Engineers supporting the Joint Proposal.