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Dish has been battling with the FCC and other carriers over the possibility of using its current satellite spectrum holdings for a terrestrial cellular network. The TV operator turned carrier has finally got full approval by the FCC to do just that today, following months of negotiation. Dish holds a good portion of spectrum -- about 40MHz -- in the AWS-4 band, which isn't exactly the "prime real estate" that other carriers hold, but is well within reason considering that T-Mobile and Sprint both operate portions of their network at even higher frequencies.

This is a bittersweet deal for Dish, however, as there are a few conditions put on the approval. Sprint, which was a big opponent of the deal, holds spectrum near AWS-4 and therefore the FCC put restrictions on how much of the spectrum Dish can operate on and at what power levels. This effectively lowers the amount of usable spectrum that Dish can end up operating on when it launches its network. Additionally, part of the deal will let the FCC have an auction for spectrum in the AWS-H Block, which is adjacent to Dish's holdings. Sprint is interested in owning this H Block spectrum, furthering issues between the companies.

Now that all of these regulatory hurdles are (somewhat) out of the way, the real fun can begin. Reports have been swirling about what Dish could eventually do with these spectrum holdings, including but not limited to rumors that Google could be a potential network partner. At this point nothing is solidified, and Dish is surely in talks with more than just one company to get its network started. Hopefully the end result will be a new operator that can take on the big four here in the U.S.

Source: FCC; Reuters; Ars Technica


Reader comments

FCC approves Dish's plans to use spectrum for cellular network


Epic! I hope Google uses it, but I'm doubting they would want to piss off every other carrier by doing it.

I'm not really good with all of this "spectrum" stuff... My question is will this be a new GSM or CDMA carrier or could it go either way? (if not bought by sprint)

If a "terrestrial cellular network" uses the same technology as the carriers we know and hate, Dish should probably implement everything over LTE. Voice over LTE, SMS/MMS over LTE, data over LTE. Everything over LTE. Since they're starting from scratch, they could theoretically do that.

If dish partners with Google, there is no way Sprint could out bid them for the spectrum, and I'm Guessing that is why Dish needs Google's Backing for the cash. If it is branded a Google Carrier, I'd gladly give up my unlimited VZW lte for a 3g Google carrier and suffer a year or two without LTE. My dreams for a Google carrier would come true. I loathe verizon and their sh@tting on customers while price gouging data shared tiers

I could go either way with this. I would just hope that the phones released on a service like this would be fully unlocked. I'm sick of hearing that yet another phone is completely locked down on big red.

They have to partner with an existing cell provider. If they don't they better start building 1000's of new towers now. Good luck with getting permits from city governments.

Perhaps Dish intends this spectrum for wireless streaming to hoppers for OnDemand programming, so customer won't have to buy 2nd party internet for data streaming...

that would be ideal. even make a bundle out it. im a dish and sprint subscriber. if they share, great. could mean paying only one bill. if not and google picks it up, depending on who they piggyback off of, may have to think about a carrier change.

I like the idea of a google carrier or even a viable alternative to the big 4, but people sure are desperate for it lol.
Dish has said nothing about partnering with google, we have no idea what they'll do with this spectrum.

Personally I think if Google really wanted to partner with a cellular provider, they'd do it with T-mobile, T-mobile has always supported and offered their phones without any changes that other carriers demand and t-mobile would jump at the chance at all that google cash.
Starting from scratch just seems like way too big of an undertaking.