As we entered 2004, broadcasters were concerned that the FCC plan for clearing the two lower channels (1,990 to 2,024 GHz) in the 2 GHz broadcast auxiliary service (BAS) band would cause a major disruption of ENG operations. The plan called for incumbent 2 GHz licensees in the top 30 markets to receive reimbursement for switching to the new band plan while smaller markets, many adjacent to the top 30 markets, would not transition to the new plan until some future date and be limited to using five of the seven channels in the current 2 GHz band plan.
These problems were resolved when the FCC accepted, with some modifications, a transition plan developed by broadcasters and Nextel. Under this plan, when the larger markets were transitioned to the new band plan, surrounding markets would be transitioned as well. Furthermore, in exchange for receiving some of the vacated spectrum, Nextel agreed to cover the cost of relocating all incumbents in the 2 GHz with licenses issued prior to the FCC Report and Order reallocating the 2 GHz spectrum for non-broadcast uses.
As the year draws to a close, the announced merger of Sprint and Nextel could have some impact on the 2 GHz BAS transition. Last week the FCC modified some aspects of the plan, but other than making it easier for Nextel to obtain financing to complete the relocation of 2 GHz and 800 MHz licensee, there were no changes to the 2 GHz relocation plan. While Nextel has until February 2005 to decide whether to accept the FCC plan, I think Nextel will follow through with relocating of 2 GHz BAS incumbents. Nextel has been working closely with the Society of Broadcast Engineers to minimize problems with the transition. It is a story I'll be following in RF Report in 2005.
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