DISH asks the FCC to waive 700MHz E block rollout requirements; withdraws Clearwire bid as wireless options shrink

27 Jun 2013

US satellite TV giant DISH Network has requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waive its network build-out requirements relating to the 700MHz E block spectrum that the company acquired during the regulator’s 2008 auction. According to Fierce Wireless, DISH said that a number of factors, including a lack of suitable equipment and the ongoing uncertainty over interference, have prevented the company from building out a suitable network using the spectrum. In accordance with the watchdog’s original conditions, winning bidders were obliged to offer coverage to 35% of the geographic area attached to each licence authorisation by 13 June 2013. With the deadline now passed, DISH has requested that the FCC either abandon its rollout requirements completely or delay them until after interference concerns have been satisfactorily addressed or 700MHz E block devices have been made available.

The E block spectrum, which is expected to ultimately be used for mobile video services, arguably represents a fairly minor component of DISH’s planned assault on the US wireless market. Earlier this month the company saw its projected takeover of Sprint Nextel fall apart, and yesterday DISH withdrew its USD4.40 per share offer for Sprint affiliate Clearwire. Elsewhere, May saw DISH lodge a USD2 billion ‘stalking horse’ bid for bankrupt open-access Long Term Evolution (LTE) start-up LightSquared, which holds non-traditional frequencies in the 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz bands. With its wireless options decreasing all the time, analysts have suggested that DISH owner Charlie Ergen may attempt to put together a deal for T-Mobile US, or turn its attentions towards securing a number of prominent regional players, such as Leap Wireless, nTelos Wireless and US Cellular.