Sprint: BAS Transition Completed in 131 Markets

WDIV-TV’s self-styled “frequency war” allowed Detroit’s broadcasters to test their new BAS systems. Photo courtesy of Sprint.
Broadcasters in 131 markets in the U.S. have completed their transition to the digital ENG, according to Sprint.

In its quarterly report to the FCC, the telco, which is paying for broadcasters to relocate BAS operations for electronic newsgathering, noted that the transition is now complete in enough markets to cover 62 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, 92 percent of all BAS equipment has been delivered and 82 percent of BAS operators have received all of gear needed to relocate and that 66 percent of broadcasters have installed all of the new equipment that they have ordered. Gear involved in the transition include control systems, mobile and fixed transmitters, connectors, cabling, transmission lines, antennas, decoders, modulators, central receive antennas among other items.

The territory cleared of incumbent BAS systems totals more than 2 million square miles extending through all of southern California and most of the Eastern Seaboard, Gulf Coast, Southwest, Great Lakes and Great Plains regions. “Today a wireless subscriber could drive from the Pacific to Atlantic coast without ever leaving a market that has access to 35 megahertz of 2 GHz spectrum previously occupied by BAS operators… the progress toward the conclusion of the BAS transition has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Sprint said.

Major markets that have completed the BAS transition over the last two months include Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans, Boston, Detroit, Nashville and Wichita. Broadcasters in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco are scheduled to complete their BAS transitions “in the very near future,” according to Sprint.

The Los Angeles transition—which, in addition to Los Angeles, encompassed the markets of San Diego, Palm Springs and Santa Barbra—was particularly noteworthy, the telco said. “The size of the Los Angeles market cluster meant that the transition involved virtually every major manufacturer of BAS equipment in the country, each with its own supply chain and logistical support that needed careful coordination with those of the other licensees,” Sprint said. “No other market in the country rivals Los Angeles in the scale of its BAS infrastructure, the complexity of its BAS operations or the intensity of its news-gathering activity.

In Detroit, broadcasters staged a self-styled “frequency war” to ensure that the new BAS systems performed without causing harmful interference. The region’s largest TV news broadcasters simultaneously tested ENG transmissions from multiple vehicles and devices over all available BAS channels. The stations located their ENG transmission equipment in close proximity to one another and transmitted along similar azimuths to simulate worst-case interference conditions. Despite the challenging environment, the new BAS equipment performed without interruption, according to several news directors who participated in the simulation.

Sprint warned the commission that four of the eight licensees—three in New Mexico and one in New York—have proven unable or unwilling to executed legal agreements known as “FRAs” (frequency reallocation agreements) for four years. Reasons for delay vary, but “unless quickly remedied… the continued inability of the four BAS operators to enter FRAs may delay the BAS transition in their areas."

The deadline for completing the BAS transition has been extended several times; Sprint Nextel’s latest deadline extension request is February 2010.