Sprint and Dish Team Up to Offer Fixed, In-Home LTE Service

Sprint and Dish have found a way to work together after all. They plan to offer a fixed LTE solution, starting in mid-2014.

Sprint and Dish Network didn't reach a merger agreement this summer, but they've found a way to still combine their complementary assets. The pair announced Dec. 17 that they're planning to together develop and deploy fixed Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless service. They plan to trial the service in Corpus Christi, Texas, in mid-2014 and later expand it to additional markets.

"We both bring distinct skills [to the arrangement], not the least of which for Dish is a work force of professional technicians who visit thousands of homes every day, performing professional installations for both video and broadband," Tom Cullen, Dish executive vice president of corporate development, said in a statement.

"With millions underserved by inadequate broadband, the potential to bring a high-speed fixed wireless solution is very compelling to both Dish and Sprint," Cullen added.

The service, which for now has no branded name (or, at least, none was shared) will entail Dish's work force installing either an indoor router or a ruggedized outdoor model at subscribers' homes. Both modems will feature built-in, high-gain antennas receiving Sprint's 4G TDD-LTE (Time Division Duplex-LTE) signal on the 2.5GHz spectrum.

Michael Schwartz, Sprint's senior vice president of corporate and business development, said the trial has "great potential," as it combines the key capabilities of the two companies and, further, maximizes the use of Sprint's spectrum and infrastructure.

High-Speed Texas

Texas is becoming the proving ground for high-speed broadband networks.

This spring, Google announced that Austin would be the second city to receive Google Fiber, a not-wireless solution that Google says offers speeds 100 times faster than the average broadband speed today.

AT&T also chose Austin to launch U-verse with GigaPower, an all-fiber network with "the fastest speeds Austin consumers have ever experienced," A&TT said in a Dec. 11 statement. U-verse with GigaPower will reportedly offer upstream speeds that are 20 times faster than current offerings, and deliver "enhanced TV" services.

The service will be packaged two ways, with pricing starting at $70 a month. Google Fiber (without TV) service, also starts at $70.

Sprint Plus Dish

Dish this summer interrupted the Sprint-Softbank merger proceedings by making its own bid, for $25.5 billion, for the carrier. Dish Chairman Charles Ergen insisted, during an April 15 call to explain the wisdom of his bid to analysts, that the two companies, working together, could offer what no one else has.

"You want to be in your home with video, broadband and data, and voice, and you want to be outside your home with those same things," said Ergen. "And while the cable industry does a really good job in your home, and the current wireless industry does a really good job outside your home, there's really no one company on a national scale that puts it all together. The new Dish-Sprint [could] do that."

The relationship between Dish and Sprint was surely later complicated, in the following weeks, when Ergen tried to buy a majority share of Sprint stock, to give himself a say in its decisions, and, later, when Dish got in the middle of Sprint's bid to buy Clearwire with, again, a higher bid than was on the table.

Sprint, just as it eventually completed its deal with Softbank instead of Dish, eventually also completed its deal with Clearwire, but not before its initial bid of $2.97 a share (considered shockingly high to some analysts, when it was announced) was driven up by Dish's involvement to $5 a share.