Broadcasters, DoD Strike Deal on Sharing BAS Band

NTIA lends its support, FCC expected to follow suit

Broadcasters and the Defense Department have come to an agreement on sharing spectrum in the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) band (2025-2110 MHz), the spectrum broadcast journalists use to transmit breaking news stories back to the station.

That is according to NAB Executive VP of Strategic Planning Rick Kaplan, who spoke with reporters Monday about the agreement. Broadcasters will have "primacy" in the band, said Kaplan, meaning that DoD cannot interfere with their operations.

The BAS spectrum is also used for some cable relay service, but broadcasters had the major dog in the fight.

Broadcasters and DoD will be co-primary users, but he said in practice broadcasters will be primary. DoD will also be geographically limited, generally to military bases. He also said it would be only DOJ that would be sharing, not other agencies. That was an important win for broadcasters, who said it would not work had the sharing been expanded.

When DoD first proposed the sharing back in July, NAB had fought the idea, based on reports that suggested it was infeasible, said Kaplan, but it had since dug into the issue, along with DoD, NTIA and the Society of Broadcast Engineers, to come up with a solution.  "We were able to arrive at a framework where it looks like DoD will be able to share with us. There are still details to work out," he said, though he expected them to be worked out over the next several months.

Kaplan said both broadcasters and DoD had put their cards on the table, with broadcasters initially asking whether only part of the band would have to share and DoD saying no, it needed to be all of it. There still needs to be a memorandum of understanding (MOU) drawn up, but Kaplan said the key sharing framework is now in place.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration Monday sent a letter in support of the agreement, citing the cost savings and not having to displace broadcasters. NTIA was charged with finding government spectrum to free up through reclamation or sharing.

NTIA billed it as a DoD proposal, but NAB suggested it was a team effort and pointed to its role, as well as that of the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE), in coming to an agreement. Kaplan said broadcasters were "happy to help the cause." SBE has experience in coordinating with DoD—broadcasters already share some of the BAS band with the department already, said Kaplan.