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Rumor: AT&T Batting Eyes at Dish (Again)?

Welcome the next chapter in our tale of "The Rumor That Wouldn't Die."

Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) stock popped almost 6 percent Thursday afternoon after a Credit Suisse report speculated that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) may consider shelling out more than $20 billion for Dish, its potential windfall of valuable wireless spectrum and its EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) technology unit.

This rumor isn't exactly new. A marriage between AT&T and Dish has come up before, but it's historically been about AT&T trying to bolster its video play. (See AT&T-EchoStar Rumor Returns .)

But this time around, Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Chaplin believes the driver is in a pile of wireless spectrum that Dish stands to gain if it can seize control of DBSD North America Inc. and TerreStar Networks. If that all comes to pass, Dish's spectrum holdings could rival T-Mobile US Inc. 's and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s. (See Charlie Ergen's Spectrum Grab and Dish's Big Spectrum Buy Meets Static.)

Speculation on what Dish might do with that wealth of capacity has run the gamut. Some believe Dish will try to get an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waiver to use DBSD spectrum to offer terrestrial services, while others see the company selling it at a handsome profit to a spectrum-deprived wireless carrier.

This latest one suggests AT&T may be willing to buy it all up for its potential earnings growth, and get its hands on Dish's satellite-TV base and its set-top and technology spinoff EchoStar, which owns place-shifting pioneer Sling Media Inc.

"What AT&T believes, I think, is if you bundle Dish and AT&T wireless on a national basis, that would reduce churn for all products and potentially drive penetration," Chaplin notes.

A Dish spokesman declined comment.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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