Sprint given one year to shut down offending Nextel networks

Sprint Nextel now officially has one year to stop operating its Nextel network in territory in which its affiliate iPCS operates, bringing one part of a long-running legal saga between Sprint and iPCS to a close.

On Wednesday, iPCS said that the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., had made a final order that Sprint stop owning, operating and managing the offending portion of the Nextel network by Jan. 25, 2010. That deadline could be extended though, if Sprint shows just cause.

In November, the Illinois Supreme Court dealt a large legal blow to Sprint when it refused to grant Sprint's petition for leave to appeal a ruling by the Appellate Court of Illinois issued in March 2008.

The Appellate Court had unanimously, in turn, upheld a 2006 ruling by Circuit Court in Cook County that said Sprint violated the terms of its Management Agreement with iPCS following Sprint's 2005 merger with Nextel, because Sprint had wanted to operate Nextel's iDEN network in territory where iPCS had exclusivity rights. At the time, the Illinois Supreme Court extended the timeline from 180 days to 360 days.

In a separate matter, Sprint and iPCS are headed to trial on March 30 over whether the exclusivity agreement also applies to Sprint's WiMAX operations. At the trial, the Cook County court will determine whether Sprint actually has control over the new Clearwire, formed when Sprint and Clearwire combined their WiMAX assets, and if exclusivity agreements apply if Sprint acts through a related party.
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