Sprint’s Dish Compromise

Sprint Nextel has told the FCC (via filing), that if the agency agrees to auction the 1900 MHz PCS H Block and agrees to protect Sprint’s adjacent PCS G Block from interference, then they will work with standards-setting bodies to expedite standards work for Dish’s adjoining spectrum, reports Fierce Wireless.

Sprint is currently offering FD-LTE in the PCS “G” block (1910-1915/1990-1995 MHz). But it’s only 2 x 5 MHz wide. Sprint wants to buy the adjoining “H” block so it can have 2 x 10MHz (1910-1920 / 1990-2000).

But that would interfere with Dish’s adjoining MSS spectrum at 2000 MHz. Sprint wants Dish to shift up 5 MHz (2005-2025 MHz) to avoid interference problems. Dish says that would delay their wireless rollout. Sprint wants the PCS extension because virtually no new infrastructure would be required to double their PCS bandwidth of their FD-LTE service which has better range than 2.6GHz.

“Sprint’s primary interest herein is ensuring that terrestrial S-band uplink operations at 2000-2020 MHz do not cause increased interference to Sprint’s G Block downlink operations at 1990-1995 MHz and do not make the H Block a de facto Dish guard band.”

Dish says the FCC’s delay in a decision to allow Dish to use their MSS spectrum terrestrially has slowed new competition.

Assuming the FCC, Sprint and Dish agree on those terms, perhaps a positive decision by the FCC will be forthcoming.

Then the question is, who is going to partner or buy the 40 MHz of Dish spectrum.

The contenders include:

  1. AT&T: (combining their 2.3 and Dish’s 2.1 GHz spectrum)
  2. Sprint: (combining their PCS spectrum with Dish)
  3. Clearwire: (combining their 2.6 GHz spectrum with Dish).

Verizon (with 20 MHz of AWS) and T-Mobile (with 50 MHz of AWS) currently have lots of LTE spectrum and seem unlikely to be Dish partners.

  • AT&T has the most need for spectrum and the money to buy it. A Dish deal with AT&T would combine their 2.3 and Dish 2.1 GHz spectrum.
  • Sprint could spin-off Clear if it gets 40 MHz of 2.1 GHz. The 2.1 GHz band might cost one half that of 2.6 GHz due to better range. Sprint could sunset its arrangement with Clearwire after 3-4 years.
  • A Clear partnership with Dish might need another partner – with cash – to make it happen. That could be AT&T with Microsoft. A Dish deal with either Sprint or Clear might put additional pressure on the strained Sprint/Clearwire partnership. A Clearwire reorganization after a Comcast split may be in the cards anyway.

A Dish/AT&T partnership would enable merged 2.3/2.1 GHz service, nationwide, with 40-60 MHz of spectrum, although the infrastructure may take 3-5 years to deliver useful service. Indian broadband will use 2.3 GHz TD-LTE.

Using 2.6 GHz LTE-A (with Multi-Carrier support), China Mobile is planning to upgrade some 400,000 TD-SCDMA base stations to TD-LTE. NSN has 16 major field trials of LTE-A in China, Russia and Taiwan, with commercial deals with eight TD-LTE operators including Bharti Airtel in India, MTS in Russia, Sky Brazil and STC in Saudi Arabia.

Clearwire will offer LTE-A next summer. Ericsson, NSN, Samsung, Huawei and ZTE have TD-LTE gear ready to install and phones using Qualcomm MSM 8960/8930 chips can utilize TD-LTE in the 2.6GHz band.

The dominant global frequencies for LTE roaming are 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz. So Clearwire may remain attractive for both Sprint and AT&T, if only as a virtual partner.

That’s just my take. What do you think?

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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