Sprint Nextel tries again to hang onto some 800 MHz spectrum

Late Tuesday, Sprint Nextel filed for an extension in its relinquishment of portions of the 800 MHz spectrum which will be used for public safety purposes.

The FCC's original plan for rebranding the 800 MHz spectrum dates back to 2004, when the Commission initiated practices to "remedy the interference problem" in this band occurring between Cellular architecture systems and "high-site non-cellular systems" used by public safety agencies (19 F.C.C.R. 14,969, 14,972).

Because Nextel had licenses for a large portion of the 800 MHz spectrum for its ESMR (Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio), the Commission laid out measures for shuffling the Nextel services to other areas of spectrum. The deadline for Sprint-Nextel wasn't set until September 2007, when the company was given until June 26, 2008 to completely transition out of that part of the network (47 U.S.C. § 405(a)).

The mobile company filed an appeal with the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, alleging that the FCC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously," in expecting it relocate directly to new channels, citing that the progress of other spectrum licensees would affect the outcome of its process.

The court found that the Commission did not act unfairly, simply because the swap could affect Sprint Nextel adversely. It affirmed the FCC's order because "even if the Commission's choice will cause disruption to Nextel's network, the Commission 'balance[d] competing goals' in a way that ''reasonably advances'' some of the Initial Order's objectives."

This latest attempt to stave off Sprint Nextel's mandatory switch follows the FCC's grant of extensions to public service agencies that aren't yet ready to move from their chunks of spectrum. Many have been given until July 1, 2009.

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