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FCC Gives Sprint Nextel 30 Days To Vacate 800-MHz Band

The plan to reconfigure parts of the wireless spectrum is designed to prevent interference with public-safety communications systems.

Sprint Nextel has another 30 days to vacate its spectrum holdings in the 800-MHz band, according to regulatory officials, as the company continues to move spectrum used for commercial purposes that can interfere with public-safety communications systems.

In an order signed Friday by Derek K. Poarch, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, the telecommunications company and wireless provider was given an additional 30 days to be tacked on to the original June 26 deadline for vacating the spectrum.

Sprint picked up most of the spectrum when it acquired Nextel in 2004. In his order, Poarch said the additional 30 days will "provide time to consider a petition for relief that Sprint filed on June 17."

In addition several hundred public-safety networks were granted extensions to similar deadlines on their spectrum earlier this week.

The FCC noted that in July 2004 it approved a plan to reconfigure the 800-MHz band "to address a growing problem of harmful interference." At the time the FCC said the plan was designed to protect the lives of emergency personnel, including first responders.

Sprint's effort to comply with the FCC order and vacate the 800-MHz spectrum has bogged down the company for several months and has been a behind-the-scenes financial strain on Sprint, which is the third-largest U.S. cell phone service provider behind AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

A Sprint spokesman said the company was grateful for the deadline waiver. "We remain committed to completing the reconfiguration," he told The Associated Press. "By granting this waiver the FCC will help promote the reconfiguration process while helping Sprint protect its service to its Nextel customers."

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