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Sprint Given Additional BAS Extension

On June 12 the FCC granted Sprint what appears to be the last extension of its deadline for relocating broadcast auxiliary service (BAS) and other microwaves out of the 1990 to 2025 MHz band.

In the Report and Order (FCC 09-49) granting the extension, the FCC clearly recognized the difficulty facing Sprint and broadcasters in transitioning to digital microwave operation on much narrower channels. It noted that "the pace of the transition is constrained by the small number of manufacturers who make the BAS equipment, a shortage of qualified equipment installers and tower climbers, and coordination problems between the new radio equipment and preexisting controllers."

Sprint is not the only licensee with spectrum in the 1990-2025 MHz band. ICO and TerreStar hold mobile satellite service (MSS) spectrum licenses for part of this spectrum. These companies have made substantial investments in satellites which have a limited life time in orbit, and it isn't surprising that they want to begin operations in as many markets as soon as possible.

Broadcasters have been concerned that the MSS operators may be allowed into the band before all markets were transitioned to the new band plan. The FCC action last week maintains BAS licensee status as primary in the 1990-2025 MHz band until "they are relocated, decline relocation, or the BAS relocation rules sunset on Dec. 13, 2013."

The FCC has allowed MSS operators to begin operation in markets that haven't transitioned, but such operations would have secondary status and would have to be coordinated with BAS licensees.

In my opinion the FCC has carefully balanced the needs of broadcasters and new services in the 1990-2025 MHz band. I haven't covered all the issues discussed in this 64 page document. Refer to it for details on proposed cost sharing, BAS-MSS spectrum sharing, MSS relocation obligations and BAS relocation rules.

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.