Dish hints at interest in carrier aggregation, more 600MHz spectrum

Dish Network is asking the FCC for permission to conduct 5G tests in Denver and Las Vegas using carrier aggregation technology in the 600MHz band.

The company's filing to the agency hints that Dish hopes to augment its planned 5G network with advanced wireless technologies like carrier aggregation and that it may be on the hunt for additional 600MHz spectrum licenses.

"In both Denver and Las Vegas, Dish holds the 600MHz F and G blocks, providing contiguous blocks of paired 5x5 MHz licenses," the company told the FCC. "However, Dish anticipates needing more lowband spectrum in some markets to meet customer demand in the future. When and if additional 600MHz spectrum becomes available, either when the commission auctions unassigned spectrum or through future partnerships, Dish plans to use carrier aggregation at the market level to combine multiple 600MHz assets to add capacity and improve data throughput speeds."

The company did not provide any more details on its potential interest in acquiring additional 600MHz licenses. Such spectrum is ideal for covering wide geographic areas, but does not support the blazing-fast connections speeds that midband or highband spectrum does.

Borrowing spectrum for tests

Interestingly, Dish is asking the FCC for permission to use 600MHz spectrum currently owned by another company. Bluewater Wireless owns the 600MHz spectrum that Dish wants to use for its tests in Denver and Las Vegas, and Bluewater agreed to allow Dish to use the spectrum for its tests until the end of this year.

"Dish needs to conduct CA [carrier aggregation] testing in a real-world environment using the specific radios and handsets developed by its vendors for its 5G broadband network," Dish explained. "And to test 600MHz CA, Dish requires non-contiguous spectrum blocks. Bluewater's A Block licenses in Denver and Las Vegas meet this need."

Dish isn't the only company interested in 600MHz. T-Mobile was the big winner during the FCC's 600MHz spectrum auction in 2017, and today covers more than 300 million people with 5G in the band. Further, T-Mobile has been working to increase its 600MHz holdings through leases with Dish, Columbia Capital and others.

Dish is planning to use various spectrum bands to construct a nationwide 5G network, including 600MHz, AWS-4, 700MHz E Block, AWS H Block and 800MHz.

That Dish is interested in carrier aggregation technology comes as no surprise. The technology widely used by 4G and 5G network operators around the world essentially allows providers to "glue" together transmissions across different spectrum bands, thereby increasing speeds to users.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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