Yuma First Market to Complete ENG Conversion

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Sprint Nextel says that Yuma, Ariz., is the first market to switch to new digital microwave gear and new channel assignments for their electronic newsgathering operations, as part of the 2 GHz Relocation process being conducted by Sprint Nextel.

As per FCC mandate, all of the broadcasters who use the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) spectrum for transmitting live news feeds and other applications will have to switch from analog to digital microwave gear that allows them to operate in a new, smaller slice of microwave spectrum. Sprint Nextel, which is receiving new spectrum for wireless services as part of its February 2005 deal with the FCC, will spend $500 million reimbursing stations for the new equipment as part of the process, which is due to be completed by September 2007.

The conversion process had been bogged down over complicated negotiations between Sprint Nextel and broadcasters over legal and accounting issues, but last spring the two sides reached common ground on several issues. Since then, Sprint Nextel has announced Frequency Relocation Agreements with ABC, Hearst-Argyle and Tribune for their stations, and indicated that the overall 2GHz process is steadily picking up speed.

NBC affiliate KYMA in Yuma was cited by Sprint as a successful user of the new digital microwave gear.

"Switching to the new channel plan was simple and took just a few hours," said Robbie DeCorse, chief engineer for KYMA, in a statement. "Now, tuning in a live shot is a breeze and we can definitely go live in places that we couldn’t before."

“Sprint Nextel is delighted to see the first market transition according to the FCC’s guidelines," added Michael Degitz, vice president of spectrum management for Sprint Nextel. "We’re proud to have collaborated with KYMA to get this done and believe their leadership serves as a beacon for other broadcasters to move forward with transition activities.”

Under terms of the FCC’s 800 MHz Order, 2 GHz BAS licensees, including KYMA-TV in Yuma, Ariz., must relocate to new spectrum assignments by September 2007.Sprint Nextel is responsible for reimbursing BAS licensees for the cost of relocating to comparable facilities within the 2 GHz spectrum band.BAS licensees use this spectrum to transmit local news from remote locations back to the studio.The FCC has licensed Sprint Nextel to use a portion of the 2 GHz band for commercial mobile radio services upon relocation of the BAS licensees.

Commenting on the relocation milestone, Paul Heebink, station manager for KYMA said, “The transition to digital broadcast capabilities is already improving our services to the public and has fulfilled our obligation to the FCC.We’re pleased that KYMA is in the first market to relocate, enhancing our critical news gathering and reporting operations.”

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