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Sprint/Nextel Gets Extension to Move BAS to New Home in Spectrum Band

The FCC has given Sprint/Nextel until Feb. 8. 2010, to complete the move of broadcaster auxiliary services--TV station electronic newsgathering, for example, and studio-to-transmitter links--to a new home in the spectrum band. The move is essentially ENG’s digital transition.

The company joined with broadcasters to seek the extension, citing the impacts of weather, broadcaster bankruptcies, delays in the DTV transition and the general complexity of the project in asking for the delay.

 That came in a decision released Friday.

The FCC also eliminated the requirement that mobile satellite service operators like Sprint/Nextel can't begin using the band until all those mobile broadcaster auxiliary services (BAS) in the top 30 markets have been relocated and the fixed links in all the markets is complete.

The FCC on Feb. 27 moved the deadline by 45 days to April 19 to give the commission more time to review the request.

The FCC has already moved the date a number of times. The initial deadline had been September 7, 2007.

In moving the deadline, the commission has conceded that the relocation has been more complicated and challenging than initially anticipated. "We must also consider that broadcast entities are already heavily involved in preparing for the DTV transition, which will occur Feb. 17, 2009," the commission said, which was true at the time. "We believe it is prudent to set a date beyond the DTV-transition date for the completion of the relocation."

 In addition to adopting that order Friday, the FCC made a number of proposals regarding the spectrum move, including tentatively concluding that mobile satellite operators and future advanced wireless service operators will have to share costs of relocation on a pro rata basis if they start using the spectrum before the sunset on BAS use Dec. 9, 2013.

Wireless carrier Sprint Nextel, has been working with broadcasters to convert their ENG operations from analog to digital microwave technology as part of a $4.8 billion spectrum deal it brokered with the FCC in February 2005.

It announced last week that it has completed the conversion process in the Los Angeles market cluster.

Glen Dickson contributed to this report.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.