Dish Network Says FCC Spectrum Plan “Significantly Flawed”

Claims Proposal Would Force Satellite Giant to Impair Lower Block of Spectrum
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Dish Network blasted a proposed Federal Communications Commission ruling on its wireless spectrum licenses, claiming that proposed restrictions are “significantly flawed” and would hamper its ability to enter the wireless broadband business.

Dish acquired about 40 Megahertz of AWS-4 wireless spectrum from two bankrupt entities – TerreStar and DBSD North America – earlier this year. It had planned to use the frequencies for a hybrid terrestrial-satellite broadcast service, but first needed a waiver from the FCC to do so. The FCC put that approval on hold while it prepared the item loosening the satellite-only restrictions on the entire band.
According to reports, the FCC is circulating a proposal that would allow Dish to use the spectrum for terrestrial use, it would require the satellite giant does not interfere with the lower end of the spectrum – the “H” block – which the commission is setting aside for a separate auction. According to Dish, the satellite giant would have to disable 25% of its uplink spectrum and impair another 25% of that spectrum to accommodate possible future use of neighboring H Block spectrum by Sprint-Nextel.

The FCC does not currently license H Block spectrum, and that spectrum is unused today. Sprint-Nextel, which controls more than 200 MHz of wireless spectrum, has expressed interest in acquiring rights to the 5 MHz H Block.

In a statement, Dish executive vice president and general counsel R. Stanton Dodge called the draft proposal “significantly flawed,” adding the restriction would “cripple” its ability to enter the business.

He added that the “good news” is that the proposal I not final and stressed that Dish is willing to work with the FCC on the final rules.

"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," Dodge said in a statement. "This is a zero-sum approach that does not result in a net spectrum gain for the American consumer when the wireless economy needs access to all available spectrum. Nor does this approach add jobs."

In a research report, Credit Suisse media analyst Stefan Anninger wrote that the restrictions should come as no surprise to Dish. Adding that several past reports had suggested that Dish may be required to “back off the lower edge of its uplink in order to save the adjacent H block.”

Anninger added that even if the order is approved as is, “the core value of Dish’s spectrum remains mostly intact, as the vast majority of the utility of DISH’s spectrum is associated with its downlink, which remains untouched.”

Anninger wrote that he expected the proposed order to be approved by the FC at its Dec. 12 open meeting, athouh it is possible the item would be voted on in circulation, which could take up to 90 days.