Plans for the FCC to address the fate of Sprint Nextel’s 800 MHz interleaved channels have been delayed, as all action items slated for yesterday’s meeting agenda were scrapped. However, the commission expects to act on the matter soon and hopes to approve rules governing public safety’s application process to secure the newly available spectrum during the next month, an FCC spokesman said.

Under the FCC proposal, Sprint Nextel would have to vacate all of its interleaved channels in the 800 MHz band by March 31, 2010, although the carrier would clear the spectrum earlier as rebanding progress thresholds are met in given geographic regions, FCC spokesman Rob Kenny has said.

Although the item was deleted from the FCC agenda, the FCC could take action on the matter at any time—possibly as soon as today—because the matter is subject to the commission’s electronic voting system, Kenny said.

When Sprint Nextel should vacate the interleaved channels has been a source of contention for about a year, with the carrier taking the matter to court earlier this year. Although the federal appeals court upheld the FCC ruling that Sprint Nextel would have to vacate the spectrum in June 2008, the FCC has granted multiple extensions allowing the carrier to continue using the interleaved channels, which are critical to the operation of its iDEN network.

Sprint Nextel has proposed that it would be willing to vacate interleaved spectrum in stages, based on the amount of rebanding progress that has been made in a geographical region. Public-safety organizations expressed support for the model but also wanted a hard deadline that would allow planning for use of the frequencies. Kenny has described the proposal as a “compromise” between the two positions.

Industry sources have said many public-safety agencies are anxious to use the spectrum, which can be utilized by many existing land mobile radio (LMR) systems. The FCC has not announced a method for public-safety agencies to apply for channels when they become available, but Kenny said the FCC hopes to establish an application process by the end of this month or early in November.