Dish Networks LTE Service Plan Wins FCC Approval
Dish Networks' plan to use some satellite spectrum to create an LTE network has received FCC approval and may benefit Sprint.The Federal Communications Commission has approved Satellite TV provider Dish Networks' request to use its AWS-4 wireless spectrum to offer 4G LTE wireless services. It was not a given that the spectrum, originally designated for satellite use, would receive FCC approval. LightSquared spent years trying to form—and receive approval for—a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network based on satellite spectrum, but ultimately failed to do so after the network was found to be disruptive to GPS communications. In May, LightSquared filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with officials saying they needed breathing room from creditors to resolve ongoing regulatory issues. Considering the Dish proposal, the FCC expressed concern regarding a portion of the spectrum referred to as the H block. It suggested that Dish disable 25 percent of its uplink spectrum and impair another 25 percent. Sprint currently owns, but doesn't use, some H Block spectrum, and R. Stanton Dodge, Dish's general counsel, responded in a statement: "Sprint's position on the H Block would render useless 25 percent of Dish's uplink spectrum—so that Sprint is positioned to merely gain the exact same amount of spectrum. This is a zero-sum approach."
The Commission unanimously approved freeing up 40MHz of underutilized satellite spectrum for land-based mobile broadband, including 4G LTE. We accomplished this by removing regulatory barriers that limited this spectrum to satellite use. Carefully balanced technical requirements will unlock tremendous value in both the AWS-4 band and the 10MHz H Block, which Congress directed us to auction. The Commission also unanimously approved a proposal setting the stage for an auction of the H Block in 2013. Proceeds from this auction will help fund a nationwide Public Safety Network for our first responders and reduce the deficit.In addition to being a likely bidder for Dish's H block spectrum, Sprint had earlier approached Dish about partnering up to share spectrum, according to Bloomberg. Sprint responded favorably to the FCC's decision, telling Bloomberg in a Dec. 11 statement: "By allocating this spectrum for commercial broadband use, the Commission is helping to bring more wireless broadband directly to consumers. This will promote economic growth, investment, innovation and increase the economic competitiveness of the U.S." Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.