Sprint: 800 MHz rebanding project nearing completion

Sprint (NYSE: S) told the FCC that its rebanding efforts in the 800 MHz band are nearing completion, according to a filing the carrier made with the commission. The declaration comes nearly a decade after the FCC ordered the rebanding of the 800 MHz band to alleviate interference to public-safety licensees in 800 MHz band caused by commercial cellular licensees.

The company described its progress in a filing with the FCC last week that discussed a meeting its lawyers held July 10 with David Goldman, legal advisor for Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

"Sprint highlighted that the multi-year 800 MHz band reconfiguration effort is nearing completion," the carrier noted. "Sprint described that 39 of 55 Regions are 100% complete with physical retuning, and ten other Regions have only one licensee left to fully separate public safety and commercial providers to mitigate the risk of interference--with all funding provided by Sprint and no disruption to mission-critical operations."

Sprint pointed to a map that it had highlighted in a separate recent FCC filing detailing its progress. The carrier noted that only 16 Regions of the 55 National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee Regions are incomplete. Excluding the five regions located within in the U.S.-Mexico border area and the State of Washington located in the U.S.-Canada border area, only four individual licensees remain to complete 800 MHz rebanding in the non-border area United States, according to Sprint.

Sprint's map shows its 800 MHz rebanding process.

As Urgent Communications notes, the rebanding plan was designed to separate public-safety LMR systems' spectrum from commercial cellular networks--primarily the iDEN systems owned by Nextel prior to Sprint's acquisition of Nextel--as part of an effort to prevent interference to the mission-critical networks used by first responders.

Sprint shut down Nextel's 800 MHz iDEN service in July 2013 and has since been refarming its 800 MHz spectrum for FDD-LTE service. Sprint expects to cover 150 million POPs with 800 MHz LTE by the end of 2014 as part of its tri-band Sprint Spark service.

Much of the remaining rebanding work that needs to be done is in California, Arizona and part of Texas along the border with Mexico. The FCC and the Mexican government only concluded a final spectrum sharing agreement that covers the border in April 2013, which has hampered rebanding efforts.

Sprint and NII Holdings have "agreed to basically take responsibility for funding [rebanding in Mexico], within certain limitations," David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC's Public-Safety and Homeland-Security Bureau told Urgent Communications.

For more:
- see this FCC filing
- see this Urgent Communications article

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