Dish Network plans to take part in the U.S. government’s TV spectrum auction next year, reports Bloomberg. The FCC plans to sell airwaves between TV Channels 30 and 51 which may be given up voluntarily by TV stations.
The company “looks forward to meaningfully participating” in the sale, Englewood, Colorado-based Dish said in a regulatory filing today. The auction “offers opportunities for competitive providers and new entrants to bid on and win much-needed lowband spectrum.”
The revised spectrum plan, approved in May, allows AT&T and Verizon to bid on at least 40 MHz regardless of how much spectrum broadcasters are willing to sell. It would also reserve 30 MHz for smaller carriers. AT&T and Verizon would be prevented from bidding on the 30 MHz of reserved spectrum if they hold more than 45 MHz of spectrum below 1 GHz in that market.
The FCC says AT&T and Verizon command around 70 percent of all low-band spectrum licenses. Sprint and T-Mobile hold around 15 percent of all low-band spectrum licenses.
Dish has built a portfolio of wireless airwave licenses worth almost $26 billion, raising the possibility that it may become an acquisition target of one of the wireless carriers. Since Dish already owns 700MHz frequencies on the “E-block”, carrier aggregation could theoretically enable Dish to gang their unpaired 700MHz band with 2-way 600MHz frequencies, effectively making them competitive with the 20×20 MHz 700 MHz slots owned by Verizon and AT&T.
Dish now has around 50 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 5 MHz in the 700 Mhz in markets across the country. In February it was the only serious bidder the 1900 MHz PCS H Block spectrum and paid $1.56 billion for the 10 MHz block from 1915-1920 MHz (for the uplink) and from 1995-2000 MHz (for the downlink).
Dish also controls 40 MHz of AWS-4 spectrum adjacent to a portion of the H Block which runs from 2000-2020 MHz (for the uplink) and 2180-2200 MHz (for the downlink).
Full mobility won’t be happening soon for greenfield wireless operators like Dish (or Google). They’ll need 600 MHz. A 10 x 10 MHz block in the 600 MHz band might cost $12 billion. AT&T and Verizon’s 700 MHz spectrum is already near capacity and they don’t seem motivated to share infrastructure.
If 70 MHz is available in the 600 MHz auction, surely AT&T and Verizon will each buy 20 MHz (10×10) for 40 MHz total. That might leave 30 MHz for smaller carriers, with 10 MHz each (5×5) for Sprint, T-Mobile and Dish.
The FCC voted in March on rules for the AWS-3 spectrum auction later this fall. The Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands. The Order will make 40 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. The 15 MHz chunk will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T will likely be major bidders of AWS-3 spectrum, but the two dominate carriers did not get their wish to have two chunks of 10Mhz X 2. Instead, the auction will include three 5×5 megahertz options, and just a single 10×10 megahertz license covering the country, notes RCR Wireless.
The FCC also left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls. Dish argued to the FCC earlier this month for an interoperability requirement for AWS-4. That will likely mean the big carriers will shut out Dish.
Related Dailywireless articles include; New Spectrum Cap Rules Transforming 600 MHz Auction, FCC Sets AWS-3 Auction Rules, AWS-3 Auction Rules: Who Benefits?, Dish Wins Everything in H-Block PCS Auction, Verizon Activates AWS Band , DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy,