Today, DISH has filed its transfer application for TerreStar’s 2GHz spectrum licenses with the FCC, stating that it plans to combine the spectrum with that of DBSD, so that it can use the full 40MHz to launch a “hybrid satellite and terrestrial mobile and fixed broadband network…to provide American consumers with greater choice for mobile broadband services”. DISH plans to deploy its network “based on the LTE Advanced standard” for which “commercial devices are expected to be generally available by 2014″, and seeks permission “to provide dual-mode terminals to customers who want them, and single-mode terrestrial terminals to customers who do not want the satellite function” noting that “relief from the integration requirement is an important component of DISH’s plan”. DISH also seeks a waiver of the ATC gating requirement to acquire a backup satellite.
In exchange, DISH states that it “is prepared to work with the Commission to develop a reasonable, attainable buildout schedule keyed to commercial availability of the LTE Advanced standard” and make “certain substantial terrestrial network deployment commitments intended to increase wireless broadband competition, including in rural areas”. However, though DISH has previously indicated that it will seek partners for its mobile broadband play, it does not commit to make network available on a wholesale basis to third parties.
As I’ve pointed out previously, DISH is now in a perfect position to replace LightSquared as the FCC’s favored option for providing additional wireless competition. Indeed DISH highlights specifically in the TerreStar application that “use of the [2GHz] band also does not give rise to the GPS interference issues that have hampered the use of the L-band” which is one of the factors meaning that the “promise of MSS/ATC has yet to be fully realized”. DISH also notes pointedly that it is “a well-financed, capable, and recognized innovator in communications technology [with] unique experience in developing an innovative and competitive retail operation and growing it from zero to approximately 14 million subscribers”.
Thus this application now sets the scene for a negotiation with the Commission over the terms of the promised buildout, including the specific coverage commitments and perhaps even some later promise (depending on the views of DISH’s key partners) to enter into wholesale deals with smaller players. With the cable companies apparently aligning themselves with Sprint, it looks very much like DISH will now partner with MetroPCS and perhaps even DirecTV and/or Leap as well.