Dish Network's plans for building a national LTE network out of wireless spectrum repurposed from satellite duty took a major hit today. In finally making a decision, the FCC has done what it does best: it decided to delay making a decision.
Dish has been asking for a waiver similar to the one LightSquared was granted, but for spectrum that is not adjacent to those of GPS. They have said that a failure or a delay in gaining the waiver would mean they might have to write down the assets and possibly selling them. But just what the spectrum would be worth while in limbo is a different question.
It might even be that AT&T is quite happy here and may have lobbied for the delay in hopes of picking up the spectrum at a discount before gaining approval to use it later. The telecommunications giant is hunting around for enough spectrum to allow it to compete with Verizon as mobile data goes berserk over the next data. Eventually, spectrum like this has to come into play and they are big enough to wait for the FCC to get it together while new buildouts are constrained by timing.
The FCC says that the public would be best served through a rulemaking process and hopes to make its decision by the end of the year. The fact that this would be after the election, thus taking a few spotlights off the FCC and its dispute with Republican lawmakers over LightSquared, is probably not much of a coincidence. They won't be looking for ways to risk another embarrassment.
The delay in Dish's plans will likely help simplify the complex dance going on between Sprint, Clearwire, T-Mobile USA, and LightSquared's various wholesale partners. With LightSquared's buildout plans in tatters and any buildout by Dish pushed off by a year or more, Clearwire's bargaining position is getting stronger every month.
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