Sprint Nextel Completes BAS Transition

OVERLAND PARK, KAN.: Sprint Nextel announced this week that it finally finished the BAS transition. The company was directed to move the broadcast auxiliary services of nearly 1,000 TV stations after being allotted the spectrum in the 2 GHz band those operations occupied. The project commenced in 2005 and was originally supposed to be completed by September 2007, but proved far more complicated than expected.

Sprint spent around $750 million on more than 100,000 pieces of gear to move the BAS operations. Nearly 1,000 engineers, tower climbers, technicians and support personnel worked on the project. Microwave and electronic newsgathering equipment had to be replaced or retuned to work in a smaller amount of bandwidth.

“Sprint’s completion of the BAS spectrum transition marks an important step toward President Obama’s goal of freeing 500 MHz of additional wireless broadband spectrum,” said Michael B. Degitz, vice president of spectrum management for Sprint.

Sprint said it notified the Federal Communications Commission of the project’s completion in a July 15 filing when it completed the Anchorage, Alaska market. Anchorage was the last of 213 markets to be transitioned. The FCC granted Sprint several deadline extensions to complete the project.

The BAS transition was part of a $4.8 billion deal Sprint Nextel brokered with the FCC in 2004, to move from 800 MHz into the 2 GHz band. Sprint’s operations in 800 MHz were bumping up against public-safety users. The FCC agreed to let Sprint move into a spectrum block at 1,190-1,195 MHz--considered the 2 GHz band.

Broadcasters with remote newsgathering operations were affected. They had to submit detailed equipment requests to Sprint to be compensated for the move. Nearly 1,000 across the United States and Puerto Rico did so.

“There was no disruption of broadcasting service during any part of the five-year project,” Sprint said, earning industry kudos.

“The National Association of Broadcasters congratulates Sprint on completing the Herculean task of transitioning the broadcast auxiliary services to a new, more efficient spectrum plan in the 2 GHz frequency band,” said NAB chief Gordon Smith in Sprint’s statement announcing the completion. “During this process, NAB’s members worked closely with Sprint’s network of engineers, technicians and other skilled personnel. We applaud the successful result that we all achieved, despite the highly complex, comprehensive nature of the BAS transition.”

David Donovan, head of the Association for Maximum Service Television called the project “a textbook example of cross-industry cooperation.”

“These BAS systems are critical in serving local communities,” he said. “Because each system is unique, relocating them required a tremendous amount of engineering We want to congratulate the broadcast-engineering community, especially those who served as MSTV-sponsored market captains, for their tireless efforts.”

Vinny Lopez of the Society of Broadcast Engineers said the group’s “national network of volunteer frequency coordinators, with unique and valuable BAS information, was a key factor in Sprint’s facilitation of an effective transition to a new, efficient digital platform for stations to provide vital news and information to the public. The Society’s partnership with Sprint in this effort is a great example of how all broadcast engineers serve and support our industry and make technology work for business, government and broadcasting.”

Sprint says it’s the nation’s first provider of 4G services and reported having around 48 million wireless subscribers at the end of 1Q10. -- Deborah D. McAdams