Dish said it is paying Qualcomm in advance to develop a chip that will enable 3G mobile broadband in spectrum that Dish is still awaiting FCC permission to use.

The move anticipates specialized mobile handsets that Dish can supply to potential subscribers of the wireless broadband service Dish intends to eventually roll out, pending that official approval.

Qualcomm will design a version of its Snapdragon dual-core 3G/LTE modem with an interface for the 3G-based spectrum Dish currently holds. Communication in this spectrum would be based on a standard different from that used by other wireless broadband systems known as Enhanced Geostationary Air Link (EGAL).

The resulting chips will enable the development of mobile handsets and devices for Dish that can operate in both terrestrial and satellite modes in the 2 GHz/AWS-4 band.

On June 1, the FCC closed its comment period regarding proposed rules that would provide additional flexibility for Dish to use their spectrum to deliver ground-based wireless broadband, in addition to the satellite and ancillary terrestrial communications the company is already licensed to provide, Dish explained.

In order for Dish to move forward with its plan, the FCC has to modify rules to facilitate widespread deployment of Dish’s spectrum for mobile use, as well as to preserve the mobile satellite service in this frequency.

The FCC’s decision process is still at a middle point, and it has not signaled how it might vote.

Dish’s deal with Qualcomm serves two purposes. The move prepares Dish for a quicker rollout of services, but it also serves as a bit of oblique pressure on the FCC to decide in Dish’s favor.

"For Dish to be competitive in the wireless broadband space, it is critical that we are able to offer terrestrial broadband services to consumers," Dish executive vice president Tom Cullen argued. "In addition, we see opportunities to serve specialized markets across the nation with satellite communications capability.

"With the rulemaking still underway, the Qualcomm development funding is a risk-based investment, yet it is important for us to accelerate a long-term path to developing both the satellite and ground-based mobile markets," Cullen continued.