The Federal Communications Commission has decided to relax older rules affecting use of spectrum by specialized mobile radio (SMR) licensees to operate across contiguous channels without a rigid channel spacing requirement or bandwidth limitation. That means Sprint will be able to use its Nextel spectrum for Long Term Evolution.

The decision matters because LTE requires continguous bandwidth, and the discontinued SMR had a completely-different and “fragmented” channel spacing.

Sprint’s Nextel network, running the iDEN air interface, used 25 kHz channels, using 20 kHz for bearer traffic and reserving 5 kHz as a guard band. Long Term Evolution, on the other hand, relies on larger channels of 5 MHz, 10 MHz or more, where spectrum exists.

As a purely practical matter, the old frequency plan for iDEN would have to have been scrapped in order to use LTE. The decision was not contentious.

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