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FCC Keeps Dish Spectrum Plan Alive

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Mobile News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously Wednesday to investigate new rules that would allow the terrestrial use of Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) spectrum. The process effectively delays Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH)'s plan to build its own Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, but a positive rulemaking would at least clear the way for the company's wireless ambitions.

Dish originally sought a waiver so it could use its newly-gotten 40MHz of spectrum for cellular LTE without also having to support satellite links. Dish obtained its S-band spectrum via its acquisitions of TerreStar Networks and DBSD North American Inc.

The good news for Dish at the moment is that its spectrum is unlikely to run into the GPS interference problems that have plagued LightSquared . (See FCC Moves to Block LightSquared and Sprint Scuttles LightSquared Deal .)

Also on Wednesday, the FCC voted in favor of investigating interoperability in the 700MHz commercial spectrum. The Commission will vet mitigation options if it finds there are interference issues in the lower 700MHz B and C block licenses.

Why this matters
Dish has long claimed that any delays would jeopardize its ability to build an LTE network, though there's speculation that this is all a big bluff as Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen looks to boost the perceived value of Dish's spectrum. Collins Stewart plc analyst Tom Eagan told Bloomberg recently that a national network buildout could cost Dish about $6 billion.

Dish has been saying it would pursue all options for its spectrum, including a possible sale, if the FCC started a rulemaking process rather than giving Dish a waiver. A sale would likely attract AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. as suitors and would give Dish a chance to deepen its partnership with whichever one wins out.

Dish executive VP Tom Cullen toldThe Denver Post that he's hopeful the FCC will expedite the rulemaking and wrap it up by "late summer or early fall."

For more

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:38:32 PM
re: FCC Keeps Dish Spectrum Plan Alive

So the FCC granted LightSquared a waiver on the obligation to deploy "integrated services" (one of two gating critieria for MSS spectrum, the other related to having substantial satellite coverage) and then withdrew it after the interference problems became to big. But it denied Dish a waiver, now is starting a new rulemaking process, which could spell an end to these ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) criteria. May be good news for Dish (Ergen after all has been looking into terrestrial for twenty years) but a bummer for companies like Globalstar, which have been painstakingly following the existing rules. 

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