DISH Network Closes Spectrum Deal, Must Now Wait for FCC Rulemaking Process

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By Paul Barbagallo  

DISH Network Corp. has completed its purchase of bankrupt satellite operators TerreStar Networks Inc. and DBSD North America Inc., giving it full ownership of licenses for 40 megahertz of nationwide 2 gigahertz spectrum.

DISH plans to either use the spectrum for the rollout of a hybrid satellite-terrestrial mobile and fixed broadband network, or sell it to another company.

Both courses face regulatory uncertainty. Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission denied DISH's request for waivers of the agency's mobile satellite service (MSS)/ATC rules, including the ATC “integrated service” rule that requires MSS licensees to deploy handsets that can operate with both satellite-based and ground-based signals.

DISH wanted the waiver to avoid a lengthy rulemaking process, but the FCC said the issue would be better handled in a rulemaking proceeding, which is scheduled for consideration at the agency's March 21 meeting.

In a statement, DISH said it “looks forward to working with the FCC on its forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and remains committed to using this spectrum to help the Administration and the FCC solve the nation's spectrum crunch.”

It added that it will also “initiate efforts to enhance the performance and capabilities of handsets that utilize the terrestrial and satellite links while exploring its options for a broader market entry.”

If the rulemaking process proves favorable to DISH, several companies would emerge as likely buyers of its newly acquired spectrum, including AT&T Inc.