WASHINGTON (CN) – The D.C. Circuit ordered Sprint Nextel to vacate some of its 800 MHz channels by June 26, as part of a rebanding process that the carrier claims will cripple its network.
The 800 MHz spectrum is plagued by an interference problem stemming from the “incompatible mix” of communication systems for commercial carriers and public safety agencies. In an effort to reduce interference, the Federal Communications Commission drew up a plan that asked Sprint – a large license holder of the 800 MHz spectrum – to swap some of its 700 MHz and 800 MHz channels for channels vacated by public safety agencies.
But by fall 2007, only a fraction of the public agencies had relocated to their new spectrum, leaving Sprint with nowhere to go.
Sprint claimed the June 26 deadline was no longer reasonable, because the FCC’s initial order outlined a simultaneous swap that turned out to be a raw deal for Sprint. Sprint claimed the lopsided exchange would cripple its network, “squander scarce spectrum” and “harm public safety.”
But the court sided with the FCC, using the words of playwright Tennessee Williams to summarize the agency’s position: “There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go!”
The agency’s decision to give public safety licenses precedence over commercial licenses was a “rational policy judgment,” Judge Brown concluded, writing for a unanimous panel.