Andy Seybold, a wireless industry consultant and public safety advocate, suggests in his latest weekly commentary that the public safety community lobby Congress to delay by five years the reallocation of the T-band. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), requires the FCC to reallocate and auction public safety spectrum in the T-band by 2021 and relocate incumbents by 2023. Proceeds from the auction can be used to cover the relocation costs of public safety licensees. But the law didn’t say anything about relocating non-public safety licensees.
The cost of relocating public safety T-band operations to other spectrum would be more than $5.9 billion, according to a report released in 2013 by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (TR Daily, March 15, 2013).
“Recently I have been considering an approach that might, in fact, be agreeable to Congress. What if the public safety community were to request an extension of the time before the move is required as opposed to repealing the law? I think a five-year extension would provide enough time to figure out if FirstNet will be capable of handling the traffic in these 11 heavily congested metro areas, or if the FCC can find additional spectrum (and funds) for relocation elsewhere,” Mr. Seybold said in his commentary.
“I have to believe this extension of time rather than a full reversal of this portion of the law will be easier to sell to Congress, the Executive Branch, and the FCC. It is in keeping with FirstNet/AT&T statements that FirstNet is not designed to replace LMR but to augment it,” he added. “If T-Band users are required to relocate and the only place they have to go is FirstNet in the timeframe currently allocated, I do not believe the network will be able to absorb these users nor will the network be able to provide full mission-critical services including off-network unit-to-unit communications …”
“I have shared my idea with several well-respected people who have been instrumental in the creation and development of FirstNet and the network and so far the idea has been met with positive responses,” Mr. Seybold added. “I believe that if Public Safety decides this may offer a sensible solution to the T-Band problem they can bring their clout to bear just as we did prior to the law being passed. I would think both FirstNet and AT&T would support this plan because it will provide more time to prove the network is or is not capable of being the one and only mission-critical network needed by public safety.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org