Dish Network Wants Wireless, Not On FCC Terms
November 21, 2012

Dish Network Wants Wireless, Just Not On FCC’s Terms

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

As smartphones get smarter and tablets become more powerful, mobile broadband is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. In the U.S., most mobile subscribers are left to choose one of three providers: AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. Even some of those carriers which don´t bear one of these brand names are, in fact, owned by them, making them by far the largest carriers in the nation.

Dish Network, the nation´s second largest TV provider, has been trying to enter into this mobile broadband market for over a year, negotiating with the FCC to do so. Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman, has recently proposed a deal which would give Dish the opportunity to enter into this market, but so far Dish hasn´t been entirely pleased with all the details of the offer.

The deal, which will need to be approved by four other FCC commissioners before it can be implemented, proposes that Dish be allowed to use a combination of purchased and rented spectrum.

Dish announced last year that they had spent nearly $3 billion on spectrum from DBSB North America and TerreStar Networks, two bankrupt satellite companies that owned some available airwaves.

Genachowski´s proposed deal also allows for an auction of some government-owned spectrum known as the “H” block. This block of spectrum is partly used by emergency first-responders and is near Dish´s DBSB-TerreStar spectrum.

“If approved, these actions will promote competition, investment and innovation, and advance commission efforts to unleash spectrum for mobile broadband to help meet skyrocketing consumer demand, while unlocking billions of dollars of value to the public,” said Neil Grace, an FCC spokesperson speaking to the Washington Post.

Although Genachowski is proud of the plan, counting it as another in a line of FCC decisions meant to improve competition in the U.S. mobile market, Dish is saying the plan would actually hinder their ability to compete against the Big Three.

According to Bloomberg, Dish´s executive vice president R. Stanton Dodge has said Genachowski´s plan “could cripple our ability to enter the business.”

“The good news is that the proposed order is not final,” Dodge added.

According to Dish Network, the FCC plan also places a limit on their mobile networks, forcing them to work on lower power than their competitors. This restriction on power could mean Dish´s mobile network could bring slower speeds to their customers, making it hard to compete with AT&T and Verizon.

Sprint, often found to have the slowest mobile broadband speeds of the Big Three, is agreeing with the FCC, saying this restriction could prevent Dish´s network from interfering with other pieces of airwave from the H spectrum. According to Bloomberg, Sprint is also expected to bid on some of this H spectrum when it goes up for auction.

R. Stanton Dodge told Bloomberg he suspects the FCC will back Sprint´s proposal.

“We remain hopeful that the commissioners will decide to support Dish´s plans to build a new wireless network, while taking the steps necessary to protect” nearby airwaves, said Sprint spokesperson John Taylor in a statement.

“Telling us to lower our power levels cripples our ability to enter the business,” said Dish´s chairman Charlie Ergen in a phone interview with the Washington Post. “We want to enter the wireless business. We have $6 billion more we want to spend on building out this business. But the FCC could make it extremely risky for us.”