Three major wireless carriers found themselves facing potential penalties at the FCC, which issued a series of orders taking various wireless licensees to task for their failure to comply with Phase II emergency 911 (E-911) mandates that require 95% of U.S. wireless subscribers to have location-capable handsets. The orders, handed down last Friday, address petitions for waiver of the FCC’s Phase II E-911 compliance deadline, which passed on December 31, 2005. Sprint Nextel, which reported an E-911 compliance rate of 81.3% as of December 31, 2005, told the FCC that its problems in achieving the 95% threshold were attributable to software problems that affected the conversion of subscribers on Nextel’s legacy IDEN network to E-911 capable GPS handsets and to the reluctance of many customers to trade in old handsets. Alltel, which had switched 84% of its customers to E-911 capable handsets by the December 2005 deadline, pointed to similar difficulties with handset churn. While concluding that software glitches affecting the conversion of Sprint Nextel subscribers were beyond the company’s control, the FCC decreed, nevertheless, that Sprint Nextel should have made more efforts to assure timely compliance. Noting that Alltel’s waiver request “appears to be based primarily, if not exclusively, on projections based on its past handset churn,” the agency found: “these uncertainties are insufficient to demonstrate the ‘clear path to full compliance’ within a timeframe that is as rapid as possible.” Denying the requests, the FCC referred Sprint Nextel, Alltel and a third carrier, US Cellular, to the agency’s Enforcement Bureau for further action that could include the imposition of fines. Four other carriers, including Verizon Wireless, Leap Wireless, Qwest, and Centennial, were warned to bring their systems into full E-911 compliance, although the agency stopped short of referring those companies to the Enforcement Bureau.