Dish in Merger Talks with Sprint?

Japan’s SoftBank is in talks with Dish Network on a fixed wireless broadband partnership, the chief executive officer of SoftBank told Reuters on Thursday.

Dish, which has some 55 MHz of frequencies, mostly in the 2GHz, would likely use some of Clearwire’s 120 MHz of frequencies in the 2.6 GHz band. Dish, of course, is looking for towers and infrastructure to support its own frequencies.

Dish now has 10 MHz near 2GHz (recently acquired from the H Block auction), and 40 MHz of MSS spectrum adjacent to it. Dish also owns a 5 GHz swath on the 700 MHz band. That totals 55 MHz.

Today Sprint Spark is delivering wireless peak speeds of 60Mbps, although coverage is limited. Sprint’s Network Vision currently combines 4G FD-LTE at 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz and TD-LTE at 2.5GHz spectrum, with carrier aggregation in the 2.5GHz band. With more than 120 MHz available at 2.6 GHz and 8×8 MIMO, Sprint’s Spark network unites the 800, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands.

Dish may install either a ruggedized outdoor router or an indoor solution on Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum using high-gain antennas to receive the 4G TDD-LTE signal.

Dish is also working with nTelos in Virginia using the same 2.5 GHz spectrum. Both trials use Clearwire’s TD-LTE spectrum.

Sprint has rolled out 4G LTE to 70 more cities, bringing the total number to 300 LTE markets. By mid-2014, Sprint aims to cover 250 million Americans with 4G LTE. By the end of 2014, it expects 100 million people will have Sprint Spark, utilizing 2.5GHz. Sprint’s rollout of Network Vision might make good timing for Dish to start its “big bang”.

“They [Dish] have the satellite and we have the network that we can collaborate on. We are looking at a technology alliance and we are doing some tests together,” Masayoshi Son, the billionaire CEO of SoftBank who gained control of Sprint last year, said on the sidelines of a conference in San Antonio.

Any merger between Sprint and Dish would result in an embarrassment of spectrum. Selling excess spectrum to other carriers in any merger between Dish and Sprint would seem to be in the cards.

T-Mobile has also been mentioned as a possible partner with Dish. A T-Mobile/Dish merger might better match their combined spectrum needs. Both companies have large AWS spectrum holdings. T-Mobile has the AWS infrastructure ready to go.

What Son really wants is to merge Sprint with T-Mobile, reports the NY Times. But American regulators have told him that the prospects are not good for joining the third- and fourth-largest mobile phone companies. Sprint is continuing its thrust to merge with T-Mobile.

Earlier this month, Son called the U.S. wireless market an oligopoly plagued by slow speeds and high prices and said Sprint could shake up the competition, but it would require a scale that Sprint cannot reach alone.

If a Sprint/T-Mobile merger hits a wall of opposition, then a Sprint/Dish partnership might be the next best deal.

Dish is reportedly also in talks with DirecTV. DirecTV is the largest U.S. satellite-television operator with about 20 million paying subscribers. Dish is No. 2 with about 14 million subscribers.

Charlie Ergen, CEO of Dish, made the approach to DirecTV. According to Ergen, it was in response to Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, announced in mid-February. A combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have roughly one-third share of the high-speed Internet market.

DirecTV and Dish’s 2002 attempt to merge was blocked by regulators.

Look at the numbers. A combined DirecTV/Dish would total about 34 million subs, while a combined Comcast/TWC would be about the same 34 million subs.

According to GigaOm, the Comcast and TWC together will control about half the triple-play services — video, voice and internet — in the U.S., with a combined 33 million broadband connections.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Bright House and Cablevision also joined together in 2012 to share Wi-Fi hot spots to provide Internet access for paying customers. Comcast alone added 1 million hot spots by deploying Wi-Fi routers that beam an additional “public” hot spot available to its customers.

“Given the rapidly changing industry dynamics, everyone should be talking to everyone, and if you’re not you might be left behind,” said Walt Piecyk, an analyst with BTIG LLC.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Dish: 5th Biggest Spectrum Holder, Dish and Sprint Test Fixed TD-LTE, H-Block Auction: Dish Closes In, Sprint Spark: Firestarter or Blowing Smoke?, Small Carriers Enter the Twilight Zone, AT&T Buying Leap Wireless (Cricket), MetroPCS Merges with T-Mobile USA, T-Mobile & Leap Wireless Do Spectrum Swap, T-Mobile to Pay More for MetroPCS, T-Mobile/MetroPCS Merger Okayed by FCC,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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