Sprint Nextel snared a victory today as the Federal Communications Commission released an order reducing “barriers to the deployment of broadband, encourages investment in wireless technologies, and facilitates the efficient use of spectrum by revising a burdensome legacy regulation that unnecessarily constrained 800 MHz Specialized Mobile Radio licensees.”
In a Report and Order, the FCC said new rules will allow for operations “across contiguous spectrum holdings without a rigid channel spacing requirement or bandwidth limitation.” The FCC added that the new rule is also balanced against the need to prevent interference with public safety communications in the 800 MHz band, acknowledging the ongoing relocation of public safety communications in that band.
Sprint Nextel, which controls 14 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in the 800 MHz band, has said it was looking to eventually use some of that spectrum to deploy LTE services that required contiguous spectrum channels for deployment. The carrier currently serves its remaining iDEN customers and is beginning to rollout CDMA-based voice services across that band.
“Today’s unanimous vote by the FCC paves the way for Sprint and other 800 MHz licensees to deploy advanced 3G and 4G technologies in the band,” the carrier noted in a statement. “Doing so will enable a better customer experience for consumers and a more efficient use of spectrum. Sprint appreciates the FCC’s expeditious action to revise an outdated rule and promote broadband competition.”
Sprint Nextel has said it would begin to shut down its iDEN operations beginning in late 2013 so as to free up the 800 MHz spectrum for its CDMA and LTE network plans. Sprint Nextel has led the 800 MHz rebanding efforts, which it inherited with the Nextel acquisition in 2005. The carrier’s iDEN-based service uses non-contiguous spectrum to provide voice and limited data services, but due to the small size of the spectrum blocks cannot provide for high-speed data.
As part of the 800 MHz rebanding efforts, Sprint Nextel gave up some of its total spectrum holdings in that band that are being moved to public safety – along with $4.8 billion in retuning costs – in exchange for 10 megahertz of spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band (G-Block) that the carrier is using for its initial LTE launch.
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