Sprint + Dish?

Fierce Wireless says Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen last week was somewhere in Asia–perhaps Japan, home of Softbank–on undisclosed business just as a rumor broke indicating that Sprint Nextel had reached out to Dish regarding a spectrum-sharing partnership to enable mobile broadband development.

Dish would use a single 2×20 MHz FD-LTE Advanced carrier, which is 20 percent more efficient than two 2×10 MHz carriers (pdf).

Bloomberg on Dec. 7 reported that Sprint proposed an MVNO and spectrum-sharing arrangement via which would use Dish’s 2 GHz AWS-4 spectrum. The companies could share revenue from customers who sign up for a Dish-branded wireless service, or Dish could pay Sprint a fee to resell wireless phone service on Sprint’s network.

Dish has 14 million satellite TV subs, but the business has largely peaked. Dish wouldn’t need to build a mobile network or run it. Sprint gains access to 40 MHz and a streaming video supplier. Sprint has towers in place and their Network Vision could integrate Dish spectrum into their network.

I seem to be one of the few people who think content providers like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook will play a role as wholesale spectrum brokers. Perhaps all will be revealed at Mobile World Congress, February 2013.

Dish spectrum provides interesting possibilities:

  • A Sprint/Dish MVNO. Dish’s frequencies would create internal competition with Sprint’s own wholesale business at 2.6 GHz. Sprint/Softbank might grow their wholesale business if Dish brought streaming video to the party and Google Wireless, utilizing 2.1 GHz, which has better range. That solves the interference issue. It also allows Softbank to sell 40 MHz of international 2.6 GHz frequencies to AT&T for their precious iPhone.
  • AT&T buys Dish. AT&T needs spectrum more than anyone and has the money. AT&T would have to build the infrastructure and get it approved by the feds. Dish says it would prefer a partnership, not an outright sale since their core satellite TV business is on the decline. Dishes frequencies are also not international, like 1.8 and 2.6 GHz. If AT&T bought 40 MHz of 2.6 from Sprint, they could offer international roaming and video. They would team with Microsoft for the video.
  • A T-Mobile MVNO. T-Mobile has MVNO deals with Simple Mobile, Solavei and Ultra Mobile. Operating on the Dish frequencies, it would have the advantage of T-Mobile’s nationwide AWS tower infrastructure. Google Wireless provides free, $10 and $20/mo wireless data plans. T-Mobile handles billing and voice. But T-Mobile is in the middle of their merger with MetroPCS and the Google Wireless component would conflict with their current no-contract, low-cost strategy and MVNO relationships. T-Mobile is more likely to team with Facebook on an MVNO. It’s more international.
  • A foreign operator, like América Móvil or Telefónica. This could break the log jam and create a new channel — much like Free Mobile did for France.
  • A Public Utility Coop. Run by the Competitive Carrier Association, a non-profit could allow competition and buy in bulk, offering data packages at half the cost.

Verizon paid $3.9 billion, or $0.69 per MHz-POP for their AWS spectrum, mostly in 20 MHz chunks, picked up from cable operators (SpectrumCo). Dish’s unique 40 MHz slot ought to be worth at least $4-6 billion. Since AT&T would then be out of options, Softbank/Clear might sell AT&T 40 MHz of 2.6GHz for about the same price. What 2.1 GHz lacks in international harmony, it could make up for in range and penetration.

Here’s my breakdown:

  • Sprint handles voice and billing for Dish and Google. Google Wireless for mobile data on 2.1 GHz. Dish for video.
  • AT&T could use 20-40 MHz of 2.6GHz for multi-national LTE using Apple iPhone 5S and iTV products. Apple could be a wholesale spectrum partner for AT&T.
  • T-Mobile’s strength is its international compatibility. Facebook and Amazon phones might run on T-Mobile’s network.
  • That leaves Microsoft teaming up with Verizon, although the carrier still needs a low-cost player like Tracfone to round out their offering.

After these wholesale deals get digested, Dish could merge with DirecTV and América Móvil could buy Vodafone’s 45% share of Verizon. Or not.

Dish is waiting for an FCC vote on Wednesday (Dec. 12) that reportedly will allow the company to use 40MHz of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS)-4 spectrum in the 2GHz band without having to support its satellite-based access requirements.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Dish: On the Move , Dish and Sprint Battle over PCS band Extension, Dish CEO: T-Mobile Partnership?, FCC Approves 2.3 GHz for AT&T, Sprint’s Dish Compromise, MetroPCS Merges with T-Mobile USA, T-Mobile & MetroPCS: Spectrum Rich for LTE-A, T-Mobile USA Upgrades to LTE, T-Mobile Gets AWS Spectrum from Breakup, Dish LTE-Advanced Called “Ollo”, Clearwire Cuts TD-LTE Deployment, Dish Talks Up Terrestrial LTE, Charlie Ergen’s Spectacular Triple Play, Charlie’s Big Play, EchoStar Closes $2B Hughes Deal, Broadband Satellites: Black Hole?.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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