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Sprint Nextel Announces BAS Conversion of 161 Markets

Sprint Nextel told the FCC last week that 161 markets—covering 83 percent of the U.S. population—have transitioned to the new 2 GHz spectrum for remote newsgathering.

In its latest bimonthly progress report on the transition of BAS licensees to frequencies above 2025 MHz [PDF], the telco told the commission that 98 percent of the replacement BAS equipment has been delivered and that 96 percent of AS operators have received all of the control systems, mobile and fixed transmitters, connectors, cabling, transmission lines, antennas, decoders, modulators, central receive antennas and other elements of BAS system that they need to relocate.

The down side of this latest statistic is that with most of the equipment delivered, manufacturers that added employees to deliver gear for the BAS transition have started to downsize. This has caused delays in delivering final equipment orders and fixing manufacturing faults.

Equipment issues could delay some installations into December, January and possibly February or later. Sprint Nextel quotes one unidentified vendor saying "It's rare that we have a flawless install" and adds "The limited capacity of modern manufacturing to produce flawless equipment in high volumes in a short period of time will thus affect when additional markets are relocated."

Other challenges mentioned include bad weather that could delay tower work; some complex systems where a challenge from a single user at a single location could prevent the entire BAS cluster from locating (Oregon is cited as an example of this); installer constraints; and licensing delays.

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

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.