Photo of C. Douglas Jarrett

Late last month, the FCC adopted a Report and Order granting SprintNextel flexibility to channelize its area-wide assignments in the ESMR portion of the 800 MHz band (817-824/862-869 MHz) to accommodate CDMA and LTE technologies. Even though the SprintNextel merger proved a terrible deal for Sprint shareholders, as noted recently by David Goldman, as the licensee of almost all of the ESMR band licenses, Nextel is now delivering a major, albeit belated, dividend: 14 MHz (one 7 MHz pair) of broadband spectrum at no additional cost.

The Report and Order provides SprintNextel with potentially more broadband spectrum below 1 GHz than any other carrier except for Verizon Wireless which paid a staggering sum for the 700 MHz C-Block—20 MHz (one 10 MHz pair) and other 700 MHz broadband licenses Auction 73.  This 800 MHz spectrum may prove particularly valuable in light of the interoperability constraints that 700 MHz band auction winners other than Verizon Wireless are confronting.

As compared to AT&T’s thwarted takeover of T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless’s ongoing challenge to secure approval to acquire SpectrumCo’s AWS licenses, SprintNextel demonstrated a deft touch in leveraging the FCC ‘s overarching goal of securing additional spectrum for Wireless broadband services, as noted in FCC Chairman Genachowski’s Separate Statement issued with the Report and Order. This is all the more impressive in that Nextel’s cellular-like operations in the EMSR band gave rise to widespread interference to Public Safety operations in adjacent 800 MHz spectrum and the seemingly never ending 800 MHz rebanding effort to mitigate this interference.

Much like the lottery winner in the NBA draft, the ball is in Sprint’s court to use this highly valued spectrum to improve its standing in the Wireless market.