Sprint Nextel gets one rebanding waiver, seeks another
Wireless carrier Sprint Nextel this week received notice from the FCC that it has received an expected waiver from completing rebanding as originally scheduled next week and asked the agency to provide it relief from a deadline regarding other 800 MHz frequencies that a federal court recently upheld.
Yesterday, the FCC granted Sprint Nextel’s waiver request that the carrier be allowed to operate its iDEN network on Channels 1-120 spectrum until NPSPAC licensees in the region are ready to retune their systems. Upon the NPSPAC licensee’s request, Sprint Nextel must vacate the spectrum within 60 days—something the carrier has promised to do for several months.
“We appreciate that the FCC has granted our waiver to remain on the 1-120 channels until public-safety agencies are prepared to retune,” Sprint Nextel said in a statement. “As all stakeholders acknowledge, however, many public-safety licensees simply need additional time to complete their retuning activities.”
Coming in the wake of the FCC’s approval of additional time for more than 500 NPSPAC licensees to complete rebanding, the commission’s approval of Sprint Nextel’s Channels 1-120 waiver request was expected by most industry observers.
Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel on Tuesday evening asked the FCC for some relief from a commission ruling last fall requiring the carrier to vacate its interleaved channels by June 26, the original completion date for rebanding. With that deadline—upheld by a federal appeals court last month—less than a week away, Sprint Nextel has proposed that that FCC allow it to vacate the interleaved channels in stages, based on the percentage of NPSPAC licensees that have completed rebanding.
“The more reconfiguration advances, the more interleaved spectrum we would give up,” Sprint Nextel spokesman Scott Sloat said during an interview with MRT.
Under the Sprint Nextel proposal, the carrier would clear 20 channels in its interleaved spectrum immediately, then clear 40 more channels in a region when 25% of the NPSPAC licensees have rebanded and clear another 60 channels when 50% of the NPSPAC licensees have rebanded. Sprint Nextel would vacate an additional 80 channels when 75% and 90% thresholds are reached, and the carrier would clear all interleaved channels after all NPSPAC licensees have completed the rebanding process.
While challenging the FCC’s June 26 deadline for vacating the interleaved channels in court, Sprint Nextel contended that clearing that spectrum would “cripple” its iDEN network in many areas. In an SEC filing earlier this year, the carrier estimated that having to vacate the interleaved channels next week would have a negative impact that likely would be “material” amount, which some analysts have estimated to be between $1 billion and $2.8 billion.
Should the FCC grant Sprint Nextel’s waiver proposal for the interleaved channels, the company believes it can avoid such losses, Sloat said.
“If that request was granted, we would expect that we would be able to meet the goals of reconfiguration, give public safety their spectrum as they need it and continue to provide our customers with the best service that they’ve ever seen,” he said.
Sprint Nextel is not disclosing how it would deal with the situation if the FCC does not agree to its interleaved-channels waiver proposal, Sloat said.
“No, we’re hopeful the FCC will act on it before the 26th,” he said.