Dish to buy 800MHz from T-MobileDish to buy 800MHz from T-Mobile
Dish Network has filed paperwork with the FCC to purchase 800MHz spectrum from T-Mobile. But the extent of the transaction – and the price paid by Dish – is not clear.
August 17, 2023
Dish Network wants to purchase a sizable chunk of 800MHz spectrum from T-Mobile.
"As Dish continues to deploy and increase coverage with this first-of-its-kind network, it will expand the availability of competitive services offered to both consumer and business customers," Dish told the FCC in a filing related to the transaction. "The 800MHz spectrum licenses contemplated by this transaction will substantially enhance Dish's ability to do so."
"Dish believes the 800MHz spectrum remains an important component of its ability to provide facilities-based competition in the wireless market," Dish wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. "Yesterday, Dish and T-Mobile jointly filed an application seeking authority from the FCC to transfer the 800MHz licenses to Dish."
The two companies have been negotiating the transaction for months.
The extent of the transaction – and the price paid by Dish – is not clear. A Dish official declined to discuss the topic of price.
Dish is also asking the District Court for the District of Columbia to modify the terms of its deal with T-Mobile so that its purchase of the 800MHz spectrum isn't made official until June 30, 2024. That basically will give the company more time to raise the money necessary to finance its purchase of the spectrum. But, because of Dish's new FCC filing, it presumably will already have FCC approvals for the deal when June of 2024 roles around.
Dish is also working to close a merger with EchoStar, a deal that will give Dish additional cash. That transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.
Another spectrum move
The spectrum at issue is a nationwide 13.5MHz chunk in the 800MHz band owned by Sprint. A complex agreement inked in 2019 among Dish, T-Mobile and the US Department of Justice paved the way for T-Mobile to acquire Sprint in a transaction that closed in 2020.
Under the terms of that 2019 agreement, Dish has an option to purchase the 800MHz spectrum from T-Mobile for around $3.59 billion. The deadline for that transaction arrived earlier this year, but the companies have remained in discussions over the transaction throughout the summer.
If Dish didn't buy the spectrum, it would have owed T-Mobile a $72 million fee for walking away from the deal.
"I can only say there are negotiations going on at the highest levels between the companies," Dish's Charlie Ergen said of the 800MHz negotiations between Dish and T-Mobile, during a recent investor call.
Lowband spectrum like the 800MHz band is considered very valuable because signals in the band can cover wide geographic areas.
The most recent transaction for such lowband spectrum happened last year when T-Mobile announced it would pay Columbia Capital $3.5 billion for 600MHz spectrum licenses covering around 100 million people in major markets like Boston and Los Angeles.
Dish, for its part, recently expanded its 5G network to 70% of the US population. That network runs in a range of spectrum bands including 600MHz, 700MHz, AWS and AWS-4. The company has said that it will be able to immediately put 800MHz to use in its network because its 5G radios are already capable of broadcasting signals in that band.
Dish's next government-mandated coverage target, in the summer of 2025, is to cover 70% of each of its spectrum licenses with 5G.
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