FirstNet 700 MHz Relocation Process on Track for August Deadline
Monday, April 17, 2017 | Comments
Public-safety 700 MHz narrowband licensees are working to relocate their licenses from band 14 to other 700 MHz spectrum by end-August to make way for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) broadband network.

More than $27 million was originally awarded to grantees as part of the FirstNet grant program. Grantees have a one-year period of performance, with an option for no-cost time extensions. Last year, FirstNet said it would make up to $40 million available for the grant program.

“A total of 10 grants were awarded last year as part of the FirstNet Band 14 Spectrum Relocation Grant Program,” said a FirstNet spokesman. “FirstNet made the grants available to eligible public-safety entities to assist them in relocating their radios and systems from band 14 in advance of the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) development and deployment.”

FirstNet set the Aug. 31, 2017, deadline to complete relocation at a board meeting in August 2016.

During last December’s committee meetings, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kim Farington provided an overview of FirstNet’s fiscal-year (FY) 2016 budget. The organization spent $104 million of its total obligations of $126 million for an 82 percent utilization rate. FirstNet had expenses of $71 million compared with its projected expenses of $92 million.

The variances were around fewer expenses for the 700 MHz spectrum relocation grants and pushing back contracts originally scheduled to be awarded in the fourth quarter of FY 2016 into 2017, Farington said. Relocation grant applicants required less funding than in the initial estimate, and some incumbents decided to clear from the spectrum on their own, not requiring grant funding.

Some of the large 700 MHz spectrum relocation projects could require more time to complete the work because of the numbers of radios and systems that need to be reprogrammed or retuned. FirstNet officials will work with the grantees on an individual basis to assess their progress and will consider no-cost time extensions if the grantee demonstrates the need.

The relocation program ensures AT&T, FirstNet’s industry partner, will have clear nationwide spectrum to roll out the nationwide public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.

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