Sprint: rebanding will cost billions more in years ahead

Sprint Nextel plans on spending between $3.2 billion and $3.6 billion in total costs to reband the 800 MHz spectrum it owns, according to a recent federal filing.

Sprint has spent $1.8 billion to date to reband its 800 MHz spectrum, where the Nextel iDEN network operates, and plans on spending billions more to complete the effort, according to the carrier's recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The rebanding is being done to reduce interference with adjacent spectrum.

The $1.8 billion figure is $500 million more than Sprint said it had spent on the effort in last year's filing. In the 10-K filing, Sprint projected the total cost would be between $2.7 billion and $3.4 billion. Sprint CFO Bob Brust has said the carrier is spending between $200 million and $300 million per quarter on the effort. 

Nextel had been involved in rebanding before it was purchased by Sprint in 2005. In a 2004 order, the FCC said Nextel needed to pay the total costs of rebanding or $2.8 billion--whichever was higher. It was hoped that the process would not cost for than $2.8 billion and that excess money would be given to the U.S. Treasury. Since Sprint now estimates that the cost will range well above $3 billion, the company said it was "unlikely" to repay the Treasury.

Wireless industry analyst (and FierceWireless columnist) Andrew Seybold said he thought it was highly unlikely that Sprint would consider selling Nextel while the rebanding process is occuring. "There's no way they're going to get rid of Nextel until rebanding is done--I don't know of anybody who would be interested in it with rebanding going on," he said.

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