Public-safety agencies and critical-infrastructure entities wanting to apply for spectrum released by Sprint Nextel through the 800 MHz rebanding process can access information on available channels through an FCC search engine that was announced last week.

On Oct. 30, the FCC passed an order requiring Sprint Nextel to immediately release its 809-809.5/854-854.5 MHz spectrum available in all non-border areas of the U.S. within 60 days of a public-safety requesting the spectrum after receiving a license for it. The carrier also must vacate additional interleaved spectrum based on the progress of rebanding in a given geographic region.

Although not yet required to do so, Sprint Nextel already has vacated the 809-809.5/854-854.5 MHz spectrum voluntarily, FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said. The online search engine with an inventory of the available channels is located at http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp.

“[The FCC search engine] tells them if the channel is available,” said Alan Tilles, who represents many LMR users as a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker. “That’s an essential thing to figure out—whether you can use any of the [channels being released by Sprint Nextel].”

While the search engine identifying available interleaved spectrum is available, the FCC has not yet established a procedure for entities to apply for licenses to the channels. Kenny said the FCC hopes to establish the licensing procedure for this spectrum this month, which likely would allow applications to be filed during December.

Those procedures will establish filing windows to apply for all newly available interleaved 800 MHz spectrum. Any applications received before the filing window opens for given spectrum will be dismissed, according to the FCC’s public notice.

Once the filing window for a channel is open, public-safety applications will be given priority during the first three years and critical-infrastructure entities will have similar priority during years 4 and 5.

Public-safety representatives have said that there is a pent-up demand among first-response agencies to use the interleaved spectrum, as the channels can be added to many existing LMR systems without requiring a forklift upgrade.