FCC gives Sprint more time to vacate key airwaves

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp S.N said on Thursday that U.S. regulators had agreed to extend the deadline for the company to relinquish a key chunk of the airwaves it uses that is close to public safety agency networks.

Sprint said the Federal Communications Commission had granted its request to push back the June 26 deadline for vacating a piece of 800-megahertz spectrum. The company will give up that piece as part of a larger FCC plan to swap spectrum with public safety agencies and minimize interference.

The FCC decision came shortly after the FCC granted a similar request from many public safety agencies around the United States, which needed more time to follow through on the spectrum swap.

The FCC extended the public safety agencies’ deadline until July 1, 2009. On Thursday, it said Sprint can delay turning over its spectrum until the public safety agencies are ready.

Sprint issued a statement on Thursday praising the decision and saying it would help further the reshuffling of the spectrum. “We look forward to continuing to work with the public safety community and the FCC to ensure that reconfiguration is completed as quickly as possible without disruption to all involved.”

In a separate request, Sprint on Wednesday asked the FCC to give the company more time to vacate another piece of the 800-megahertz airwaves, which is located between the two ends of the swap and serving as a buffer zone to prevent interference.

Reporting by Peter Kaplan, editing by Maureen Bavdek and Gerald E. McCormick