Ergen Talks

Charlie Ergen’s PCIA keynote speech, at the Wireless Infrastructure Association today, is set to “discuss DISH’s wireless plans” and will be followed by a Q&A session with FCC Chairman Genachowskix (Twitter feed) began at 11 am (livestream).

DISH has been pushing back at the FCC on the proposed shift of their uplinks by 5MHz into the 2005-25MHz band, claiming that a 5MHz buffer is needed between their spectrum and Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) operations above 2025MHz, and that a shift would cause serious delays for their network buildout plans.

After delivering a keynote speech at the PCIA wireless infrastructure conference, Ergen said Dish will need more spectrum if it wants to compete with carriers like AT&T and Verizon that each have 100 MHz of spectrum total.

Fierce Wireless reports he did not say how Dish plans to get more spectrum but indicated that it would look to partner with a company that had more low- or mid-band spectrum. In May, Ergen said Dish has enough spectrum to start its wireless business, but he seemed to be indicating here that longer term it would need more spectrum resources to be a disruptive force in the market.

Broadcasting and Cable got some actualities from Ergen:

“We really hoped when we started this project that we would actually build a network from scratch, but the timing doesn’t make a lot of sense anymore.”

Ergen was asked whether he might sell the spectrum to AT&T, something it was suggested an FCC under a President Romney would look favorably on.

Ergen responded: “We may end up selling the spectrum. I am not saying that is an impossibility. We are not suicidal.” He said the company had a responsibility to its shareholders, adding that he was one of the bigger ones. But he said he would not be giving a speech at PCIA if he intended to get out of the business. “We prefer not to sell the spectrum,” he said, adding that was because wireless was a business he wanted to be in.

There was no blockbuster carrier deal announced or any new business ventures mentioned. But Tim Farrar says he’s got it all figured out.

Ergen told Bloomberg that Dish no longer has plans to use Blockbuster as a nationwide video streaming or DVD-by-mail service. Dish has begun the process of closing stores that no longer make strategic sense, a plan that will allow Dish to turn a profit on the $320 million acquisition, Ergen said.

Ergen’s plans for Blockbuster turned sour when the regulatory approval process for his radio-wave licenses took longer than expected. Ergen said he believed the government would approve Dish’s plan in 2011 as it had done for Philip Falcone’s LightSquared.

Satellite spectrum guru Tim Farrar believes that DISH could make a deal with Clearwire or AT&T for their 40 MHz of MSS spectrum. But Clearwire is spectrum rich and cash poor. It might need outside financing from someone like Carlos Slim or big tech companies to make it fly.

If Dish wants “wireless cable”, then he’s going to need 2.6 or 3.5 GHz. The lower bands and the new 600 MHz TV bands won’t deliver 40 MHz of bandwidth, but they will deliver mobility. You really need both.

AT&T has the resources to buy into the 600 MHz band and might combine their 2.3 GHz holdings with Dish’s 2.1 GHz holdings — in 4-5 years.

But nothing’s gonna happen until the FCC okays Dish to use their 40 MHz of 2.1 GHz spectrum terrestrially. That hasn’t happened yet.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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