The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an Order that will allow utilities and other commercial entities to file applications for new spectrum licenses in the 900 MHz Business and Industrial Land Transportation (B/ILT) band (896-901/935-940 MHz), thus partially lifting a “freeze” that has been in place on applications for new licenses in this band since 2004 in connection with the Sprint Nextel 800 MHz rebanding process.

Specifically, eligible applicants will now be allowed to file applications for new licenses in the 900 MHz B/ILT band in any National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) region where the 800 MHz rebanding process is not yet complete, as long as the application is accompanied by a letter of concurrence from Sprint Nextel.  Previously, the FCC would accept applications for new licenses in the 900 MHz B/ILT band only in those NPSPAC regions where rebanding had been complete for at least six months (at present rebanding is complete in only 11 out of the 55 NPSPAC regions).

Spectrum in the 900 MHz B/ILT band will continue to be licensed on a site-by-site basis for base-mobile operations in support of various commercial (e.g., utility, transportation, manufacturing) and non-commercial (e.g., educational, medical) activities.  Although these licenses are intended for private internal communications, the FCC will continue to allow licensees to modify their licenses to permit the provision of commercial communications services or assign their licenses to another entity for commercial use.   

The revised application process for new 900 MHz B/ILT licenses will go into effect 30 days after the FCC’s Order is published in the Federal Register (which has not yet occurred).