Citing Wave 1 complications outside its control, Sprint Nextel yesterday asked the FCC to reset the clock for 800 MHz rebanding, which would delay completion of the monumental engineering endeavor by at least seven months.

Sprint Nextel—the merged wireless carrier that assumed Nextel Communications’ obligations for rebanding—made the filing with the FCC last night in response to the quarterly progress report submitted by the Transition Administrator (TA) in mid-November. In that report, the TA indicated that at least 50 Wave 1 licensees operating in Channels 1-120 would not have approved agreements by the Dec. 26 target date set for the conclusion of the mandatory negotiation period.

In its filing, Sprint Nextel estimates there could be as many as 74 licensees that fit into this category and noted several circumstances it said were outside its control. Specifically, the carrier said in the filing that the TA has issued more than 20 forms, directives and policy changes since April. In addition, the FCC issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) in October “substantially modifying” the role of ESMR and EA licensees.

“For all of these reasons, Sprint Nextel recommends that the previously designated start date of 800 MHz band reconfiguration (June 27, 2005), be readjusted to reflect the recent issuance of the MO&O,” the filing reads. “The appropriate start date for 800 MHz band reconfiguration should be adjusted to begin 60 days after publication of the MO&O in the Federal Register.”

Sprint Nextel spokesman Tim O’Regan said the company’s rebanding efforts have been hampered by such continuous changes, some of which have caused ongoing negotiations to shift course dramatically. “It has been an evolving regulatory environment, and we think the timeline should reflect that,” O’Regan said, noting that the company still supports rebanding and will continue to work diligently to make reconfiguration occur as quickly as possible.

Even without these changes, Sprint Nextel noted that the manner in which rebanding work was scheduled made it difficult for the company to meet the timetable established by the TA. Instead of Wave 1 providing a “ramp-up” or “pilot” period to let all parties become familiar with the rebanding process, the first wave is the most difficult, according to Sprint Nextel.

“Despite Sprint Nextel’s concerns, the TA recommended, and the commission approved, a heavily weighted first retuning ‘wave’ which contains largest number of licensees operating in the nation’s most populous and most complex licensing environments,” Sprint Nextel’s filing states. “Real-world experience over the past six months has borne out concerns that completing Wave 1 within the time period specified by the TA may indeed prove unrealistic.”

TA spokesman Bryan Cloar declined to comment on Sprint Nextel's claims but said, "We are reviewing [the filing] and want to give it appropriate attention."