Late this week, the FCC approved some changes to the current allotment of the wireless spectrum, paving the way for Sprint to expand its current 3G network and launch an LTE service. Possibly more importantly, the government agency also gave hospitals a slice of spectrum that will allow them to monitor patients without complex wiring.
A New Lease on 800MHz
For Sprint, the FCC changed the rules that govern how the 800MHz band of the spectrum is used. Sprint holds rights to broadcast in those wavelengths, but hasn’t been able to efficiently build out more advanced networks due to rules that require certain spacing in between each channel Sprint uses in the 800MHz range.
Sprint obtained the rights to these wavelengths when it purchased Nextel in 2004, and the company originally used the spectrum to continue Nextel’s iDen network, which allowed for “push-to-talk”, walkie-talkie like service. But that same year, the FCC started restricting how the telco could use each individual channel on its band, meaning Sprint could keep the iDEN system in place, but was severely restricted in adapting the band for new network technologies. The FCC meant for these restrictions to prevent interference with licensees like firefighters and police stations that used the 700MHz spectrum for public safety purposes. The regulator even tried to push Sprint out of the spectrum entirely, but eventually granted the company a temporary stay on that decision.