Dish chairman pushes FCC chiefs on spectrum rules
Dish Network Chairman and former CEO Charlie Ergen held a series of high-level meetings with FCC officials this week urging the agency to allow it to use 40 MHz of satellite spectrum for cellular services.
Ergen and four other Dish Network executives on Tuesday met with all of the FCC's commissioners, the head of the wireless bureau and Chairman Julius Genachowski's chief of staff, according to an ex parte document filed yesterday.
"During the meetings, we urged the Commission to adopt final rules … to enable Dish to proceed with its planned wireless initiatives," the company said. "Dish needs regulatory certainty on the AWS-4 rules before it can fully undertake development activities."
The FCC is considering a proposal that would allow Dish Network to use 40 MHz of spectrum acquired from bankrupt satellite companies DBSD and TerreStar for an LTE-Advanced network. The agency's pleading cycle on the rules has closed, but it has yet to issue a formal order.
Dish will not be able to use its 2 GHz satellite spectrum for land-based wireless service until the FCC changes its regulations on the band.
Dish wants the agency to pass rules allowing it to move forward with its LTE network and is pushing for more lenient build-out requirements.
The FCC's current proposal would strip Dish of its 2 GHz licenses if it fails to meet a three-year deadline to provide service to about one-third of the population covered by its spectrum, and at least 70 percent of the population in its licensed area within seven years.
Dish calls the requirements "unrealistic."
T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS want the FCC to make Dish Network give up half of its spectrum in exchange for the right to use its licenses for LTE.
The divestiture would "avoid a windfall" if Dish decided to sell off its spectrum holdings after receiving FCC approval to use them for cellular service.
The suggestion that Dish should be forced to auction off its airwaves reflects longstanding rumors that it only bought the licenses so it could later sell them at a huge profit to spectrum-hungry wireless providers like AT&T.
Dish has denied the profiteering allegations and says its LTE plans are genuine.
A selloff of Dish Network's 2 GHz holdings could allow operators like T-Mobile and MetroPCS to supplement their spectrum assets, at the same time making Dish's remaining spectrum less attractive to their larger competitors. Smaller wireless providers have complained that spectrum is becoming consolidated in the hands of too few operators, namely AT&T and Verizon Wireless.