Almost 99% of Wave 3 NPSPAC licensees operating in the 800 MHz band had to enter mediation proceedings this week because they had not finalized a rebanding agreement with Sprint Nextel, according to the 800 MHz Transition Administrator (TA).

In e-mail responses to questions from MRT, the TA stated that 255 of about 258 Wave 3 NPSPAC licensees entered the mediation process, as required for licensees lacking a final reconfiguration agreement at the conclusion of the mandatory negotiation period that ended on Monday.

News that a large percentage of NPSPAC Wave 3 licensees would enter mediation was expected, although many participants had hoped that more than three licensees would have rebanding agreements when the mediation period began on Tuesday. In Wave 1, 322 of the 387 NPSPAC licensees (83.2%) entered mediation, even after receiving a three-month extension to the negotiation period. In Wave 2, 211 of the 224 NPSPAC licensees (94.2%) entered mediation.

Participants and observers of the rebanding effort had predicted a similar outcome for Wave 3, in part because many key players—for example, lawyers negotiating for both Sprint Nextel and NPSPAC licensees—have been embroiled in ongoing mediation and FCC appeals proceedings for Wave 1 and Wave 2 cases.

While the large number of cases entering mediation was not what participants envisioned for the first two waves, a majority of the final rebanding agreements that have been reached have been products of the mediation system.

“The way the process has morphed is that the negotiating period is not where the action is happening; it’s happening in mediation,” Larry Krevor, Sprint Nextel's vice president of government affairs for spectrum, has said. “[Mediation] is producing agreements. Whether it’s the optimal way to get there is another matter, but it’s working.”