Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen pushed the FCC in a speech yesterday to pass rules allowing it to use its AWS spectrum for a mobile broadband network.
Further delays could hamper its ability to compete with existing operators like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, Ergen said during a Wednesday speech at PCIA's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.
"It is disappointing we haven't been in the game yet," Ergen said, commenting that he had hoped the FCC would have allowed it to move forward by now.
Dish Network can't use its 40 MHz of AWS-4 spectrum for its planned LTE network without changes to FCC regulations on the former satellite band. The commission is currently considering the revisions, but has not indicated when it will make the new regulations official.
Ergen said Dish had already lost some of its time-to-market advantage. The company wants to launch an LTE Advanced network to make its service competitive, as none of the country's other wireless providers have deployed the next-generation LTE technology.
He also said it "doesn't really make sense any more" for Dish to build its wireless network from scrap, and that it would instead look to partner with an existing operator on its buildout. Clearwire has been rumored as a potential partner for Dish Network, but Ergen gave no clue as to whether a deal was imminent.
When asked whether a Republican-led FCC might allow Dish to sell its spectrum to AT&T, Ergen said "we may end up having to sell the spectrum. I'm not saying that's an impossibility."
However, Ergen said the goal was still to use the spectrum for its own wireless network.
"We'd prefer not to sell the spectrum, we'd prefer to enter the business," he said, citing the lack of growth in the television market. Dish Network will need more than its current spectrum holdings to effectively compete, he said. "You need more than 40 MHz."
Sprint is pushing the FCC to shift Dish Network's AWS-4 band up 5 MHz from 2000-2020 MHz to 2005-2025 MHz so adjacent H block PCS spectrum can be used for LTE.
Dish Network is opposed to Sprint's proposal, and said in a recent FCC filing that allowing high-power operations in the H block will "render at least 25 percent of the AWS-4 uplink band unusable."