A surprisingly large number of 800 MHz Wave 1 licensees operating in Channels 1-120 (Stage 1) had to turn to mediation to reach a rebanding agreement with Sprint Nextel but only 20 of these cases remain in limbo, according to the quarterly report released yesterday by the 800 MHz Transition Administrator (TA).

Licensees in this first stage of the rebanding process must be relocated before other users—most notably, public-safety entities—can move to the spectrum. Of the 369 rebanding agreements sought in this stage, 172 of the cases entered the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, in which a TA-appointed mediator works with Sprint Nextel and the 800 MHz licensee in an effort to forge a rebanding deal.

Having so many cases enter mediation was unexpected, as Sprint Nextel previously stated that only 65 Wave, Stage 1, licensees had entered the ADR process.

“The numbers going to mediation were more than anybody wished,” TA Director Brett Haan said. “For future waves, the lesson learned is to get active engagement as early on as possible, identify the issues and let’s work to solve them. Mediation is a right, but it should not be the first choice.”

Initially, the ADR process was supposed to conclude on Feb. 8, but the period was extended to minimize the number of cases submitted to the FCC, TA Director Brett Haan said. Indeed, only 20 of the Wave 1, Stage 1 cases remain unresolved—six have been referred to the FCC, while the other 14 have been granted additional time to reach an agreement.

“The mediators believe the parties were close enough [to a deal] that it warranted them working it out on a very clear time frame rather than having an artificial deadline to send them to the commission,” Haan said, explaining the reasoning behind granting the 14 cases extra time.