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FCC commissioner aiming for Dish spectrum rules by September

Wed, 07/11/2012 - 2:37pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Dish Network's plan to use a large swath of satellite spectrum for a wireless network could get a final decision from federal regulators in September.

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said at a congressional oversight hearing yesterday that the agency should issue rules on the 2 GHz band Dish wants to use for LTE service "no later than the end of September."

"Over the next two and a half months, we should roll up our sleeves, hammer out the necessary details and get this done," he said in a copy of his prepared remarks.

Dish Network owns 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz band, also called AWS-4. The FCC earlier this year cleared Dish's.

The FCC cleared Dish's acquisition of 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz band from bankrupt satellite companies DBSD and TerreStar earlier this year but did not grant the company's request for a waiver to use the licenses for an LTE network that would not have a satellite component.

Instead, the FCC opted for a formal rulemaking process to open the band for terrestrial-only cellular service. The decision effectively put Dish's wireless plans on the backburner, as it does not believe it can compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless if it is limited to more expensive dual-mode satellite/cellular phones.

Pai's statements suggested the FCC may rule favorably on Dish's proposal, but he did not provide any clues as to whether Dish would be allowed to use its entire 40 MHz for LTE, meet tight deadlines for the deployment of its network or divest some of its licenses in exchange for terrestrial rights.

Dish Network declined to comment on Pai's remarks. It has repeatedly pushed the agency for a speedy decision on its licenses and has argued the FCC should lengthen its timeline for network construction.

The wireless industry has pushed back against Dish's plans, which would introduce a new competitor into the mobile broadband market. T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS have asked the FCC to force Dish to relinquish half of its spectrum, leaving the company with 20 MHz instead of 40 MHz for its wireless service.

AT&T wants the FCC to allow Dish's terrestrial-only cellular service to operate across its entire holdings, with half allocated to satellite services.

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