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Dish pitches revised LTE plan

Tue, 01/24/2012 - 2:26pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Dish Network pitched a revised plan for its yet-unapproved mobile broadband network to FCC officials last week, according to ex parte documents posted Monday to the agency's website.

The satellite television company is pushing the FCC to grant it a waiver for land-based mobile broadband service in spectrum currently restricted to satellite use, similar to the hotly contested waiver granted to LightSquared last year.

Dish acquired the spectrum through its purchase of bankrupt satellite communications companies TerreStar and DBSD North America last year.

During the Jan. 18 meeting, Dish Network executive vice president Thomas Cullen and four of its attorneys presented a "detailed proposal" on a "revised build-out schedule keyed to commercial availability of the LTE Advanced standard" to the FCC.

Rick Kaplan, the head of the FCC's wireless bureau, attended the meeting, as did top officials from the agency's international bureau and office of engineering and technology.

A Dish Network spokesman declined to answer questions about the changes, and no further details about the revisions were disclosed in the filing.

Formal changes to Dish Network's original plan would have to be made part of the public record. Since the revisions haven't been posted, the latest proposal is likely part of the company's ongoing negotiations with the FCC.

Dish Network had previously said it was "committed to developing a build-out schedule consistent with FCC precedent and based on the build-out principles established in the Sprint/Nextel and Sprint/Clearwire transaction decisions."

The FCC required Clearwire to cover 15 million people within four years and 30 million people within six years, a far more lenient requirement than the 100 million people LightSquared is supposed to cover by the end of this year as part of the conditions to get its waiver for land-based base stations.

Dish also said in its original plan it wanted to use LTE Advanced, even though the standard hadn't been ratified at the time it made the proposal. The construction of the network would be "keyed to commercial availability of the LTE Advanced standard," Dish said in its original proposal.

BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk says it would be a mistake to assume that Dish Network is accelerating its deployment plans because of the International Telecommunications Union's recent finalization of LTE Advanced standards.

"The problem is 'revised' can mean anything," Piecyk says. "The temptation is to assume that 'revised' means they'll start the clock and it will be a more aggressive schedule than they had previously planned … but we don't know whether they've revised up or down."

The timing of Dish Network's latest proposal came just days after federal officials said there were "no practical solutions" for the GPS interference problem blocking the launch of LightSquared's network, putting pressure on the FCC's pledge to expand broadband access.

The blowup over LightSquared, combined with verbal sparring from AT&T over the agency's handling of spectrum auctions, could give Dish Network the leverage it needs to make additional demands, Piecyk says.

Still, what those demands are is anybody's guess.

"They're just trying to negotiate," Piecyk says.

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