Enterprises interested in accessing fallow spectrum in the 900 MHz band could get the opportunity soon, if the FCC adopts rules reflecting the sentiment of joint petition filed last week by Sprint Nextel and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance.

In September 2004, the FCC issued a public notice announcing a freeze on applications for 900 MHz Business and Industrial/Land Transportation (B/ILT) spectrum, because the commission wanted to preserve unused portions of the 900 MHz band as “green space” for Sprint Nextel to use to relocate its operations during 800 MHz rebanding. In June, the FCC ruled that no applications for the 900 MHz B/ILT spectrum would be accepted until six months after rebanding is completed in a given region, which would mean the spectrum could lay fallow for several more years in some parts of the country.

In the joint petition for reconsideration, Sprint Nextel and EWA describe this measure as “unnecessarily protective,” noting that the wireless carrier does not need 900 MHz spectrum in some NPSPAC regions and may only need the frequencies in a key market or two in other regions.

“I sat down with Sprint and said, ‘Why don’t we work something out? Why do I have to wait for these regions to reband? There are places you don’t need it for rebanding,’” EWA President and CEO Mark Crosby said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “They agreed. We worked at it and filed a joint petition.”

Under the joint proposal, the FCC could begin accepting 900 MHz B/ILT license applications immediately, but the applicant would have to present a letter from Sprint Nextel concurring that the B/ILT system would not impact the carrier’s ability to meet its 800 MHz rebanding obligations.

Crosby said Sprint Nextel officials were “exceedingly reasonable” in considering the notion of allowing access to the 900 MHz spectrum, which the FCC had protected for the wireless carrier’s benefit. With Sprint Nextel’s blessing, Crosby said he believes the FCC will be receptive to the proposal.

“I think they’re going to like it, because it puts the spectrum in play for what it was intended—without compromising rebanding,” Crosby said. “And, with Sprint and EWA going in together, it removes one of the obvious questions, which is, ‘What does Sprint think about it?’”