FCC approves use of LTE in 800 MHz band, opening door for Sprint

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The FCC voted to remove technical restrictions on the 800 MHz band, allowing the deployment of 3G and LTE service on the spectrum, which should clear the way for Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) to eventually deploy LTE in the airwaves.

The FCC voted 5-0 Thursday on a report and order that allows the deployment of advanced services by 800 MHz Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) licensees. The action alters the FCC's rules to allow geographically-based SMR licensees to operate across contiguous channels without a rigid channel spacing requirement or bandwidth limitation. The restrictions had kept operations on 800 MHz spectrum limited to 2G services, and the technical limitations dated from an older FCC order before Sprint merged with Nextel in 2005. The FCC also took steps to continue to mitigate against interference with public-safety operations in the 800 MHz band.

Sprint intends to deploy LTE services on its 800 MHz spectrum sometime by 2014; the 800 MHz spectrum is where its iDEN network currently resides. Steve Elfman, president of network operations at Sprint, said in April that the company has already received 3GPP certification for Band Class 26 to use its 800 MHz spectrum for LTE.

"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," said Vonya McCann, senior vice president of government affairs at Sprint.

At the FCC's open meeting, which was the first with newly confirmed commissioners Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel, the agency also approved rules to allow medical body-area networks (MBANs) to operate on 2360-2400 MHz spectrum. MBANs can transmit information from, and between, mobile medical devices and body-monitoring sensors both in the hospital and at home. The commissioners also voted to look into whether communications can be restored after natural disasters or emergencies by using specially equipped drones or other aircraft.

For more:
- see this FCC report and order (PDF)
- see this release (PDF)
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this Politico article

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