The FCC brought Dish Network's wireless plans one step closer to advancing this week when it set deadlines for comments on a plan for flexible use of the 2 GHz satellite band, a proposal that could ultimately allow Dish to launch its LTE network.

The FCC passed the proposal at its March 21 open meeting, and this week it set deadlines for comment on the regulations after publishing its notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register on April 17.

Industry stakeholders have until May 17 to file their initial comments, with replies to those comments due June 1.

"We remain optimistic that this process can be concluded by the end of the summer," a Dish Network spokesman said, calling the proposed regulations "critical."

The satellite provider asked the FCC to grant it a waiver to use 2 GHz spectrum purchased from bankrupt satellite companies TerreStar and DBSD for a land-based LTE-Advanced network. It argued to the agency that any delays in getting the waiver would "jeopardize Dish’s ability to successfully enter the wireless market and would require us to consider other options."

The FCC denied Dish Network's request and said it would have to go through a formal rulemaking process. The decision came as the agency was reeling from the fallout over LightSquared, which was speedily granted a similar waiver only to run into major problems with GPS interference.

The FCC's move to opt for a time-consuming rulemaking instead of a waiver was a setback for Dish, which had told the FCC it could time its network to the commercial availability of LTE-Advanced equipment.

The agency appears to be staying true to its timeline for getting its proposal in place – its vote on the rulemaking came just three weeks after it decided against granting Dish its waiver, as promised – but it is not clear how long it could take to clear the various hurdles toward formal regulations.

Even if it passes the rules, they could still be challenged in court before going into effect.