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Dish Closes DBSD, TerreStar Buyouts

Mon, 03/12/2012 - 7:14am
Maisie Ramsay

Dish Network has closed its acquisitions of satellite companies DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks, but its plans to use the companies' spectrum for an LTE network are a long way from being realized.  

The company had asked the FCC to grant it a waiver to use DBSD and TerreStar satellite spectrum for land-based wireless services, a waiver similar to the one the FCC granted to LightSquared last year. 

The FCC cleared Dish’s acquisition of the companies' spectrum licenses earlier this month, but said it would not give Dish the waiver it needed to begin work on its LTE network, instead deciding to examine the issue of terrestrial mobile broadband in satellite spectrum through a time-consuming rulemaking process.   

The decision will delay Dish's LTE plans, pushing them back for months as the FCC goes about its formal process for a rule change. 

Dish said today it "remains committed to using this spectrum." It will "initiate efforts to enhance the performance and capabilities of handsets that utilize the terrestrial and satellite links while exploring its options for a broader market entry" as it waits for the FCC to come out with its new regulations. 

Dish had warned the agency that a delay in the granting of the waiver could jeopardize its entry into the wireless market and "require us to consider other options." Those options are rumored to include the sale of the spectrum to another company, such as AT&T, which is on the hunt for additional airwaves. 

The FCC will vote at its upcoming open meeting on March 21 on a proposed rulemaking to open spectrum in the 2 GHz band for terrestrial wireless service.  

The agency said in its March 2 decision on Dish's waiver request that it "has been clear about its intent to remove regulatory barriers in this band through a rulemaking." Dish's acquisition of the satellite companies and its subsequent LTE plans did "not provide a sufficient basis to depart from the intended rulemaking approach," it said. 

Dish bought DBSD and TerreStar in separate transactions last year as both companies were going through bankruptcy proceedings. It paid about $1.4 billion for DBSD and about $1.37 for TerreStar. Together, the companies provided Dish with 40 MHz of nationwide spectrum in the 2 GHz band.  

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