The FCC Thursday approved the opening 10 megahertz of spectrum in the bands 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz (H Block) for commercial licensing. The report and order pairs the two bands that comprise the H Block, and establishes that the paired bands will be licensed and auctioned through a system of competitive bidding.
The news comes as a relief to Sprint, which has long expressed interest in bidding for the H Block.
Larry Krevor, vice president of government affairs at Sprint, thanked the FCC for moving quickly to adopt licensing, technical and service rules for the eventual auction of the H Block spectrum band later this year.
"Sprint appreciates the Commission adopting balanced rules to protect neighboring licensees from interference while assuring H Block licensees the flexibility necessary to provide wireless broadband services,” Krevor said.
Wireless Week is awaiting comment from Dish on the matter.
The H Block emerged as a point of contention while Dish lobbied for approval to use its AWS spectrum for a terrestrial LTE network. Sprint had argued for the FCC to shift Dish's AWS band up 5 MHz from 2000-2020 MHz to 2005-2025 MHz to diffuse any interference with the H Block.
Sprint expressed interest in the H Block as part of its ongoing LTE deployment, saying it would bid on the spectrum if the FCC put it on the auction block. Sprint currently uses a separate portion of the PCS band for LTE, making the H block particularly advantageous.
Dish meanwhile argued that a "full power" H Block would cause at least 25 percent of its uplink to become unusable, a claim Sprint said was erroneous.
Dish eventually conceded to designate the lowest 5 MHz of its uplink spectrum (2000-2005 MHz) as an internal terrestrial guard band, provided that safeguards were adopted to ensure that the remaining 15 MHz of its uplink spectrum (2005-2020 MHz) could be utilized as fully and as quickly as possible for mobile broadband.
Sprint likely won't walk away easily with the spectrum at auction. Dish may put up a fight for the H Block airwaves. In the wake of failed bids for both Sprint and Clearwire, Dish may prove it's especially hungry for a block of airwaves that sit directly adjacent to existing holdings.
Shares of Sprint remained flat in afternoon trading, while Dish rose over 3 percent to $41.41.