Battling AT&T, Dish outlines LTE Advanced buildout timeline, retail ambitions

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Dish Network vehemently argued against a number of recommendations AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) made to the FCC regarding the stipulations that should be placed on Dish's spectrum licenses. And in its filing with the FCC, Dish clarified a number of elements of its mobile broadband plan, including its preference for LTE Advanced network technology and its intention to launch a retail offering (instead of a wholesale offering).

Dish is seeking the FCC's approval to build an LTE Advanced network with the 40 MHz of S-band spectrum in the 2 GHz range it purchased from TerreStar Networks and DBSD North America. Sprint Nextel has signed off on the company's plan, and has urged the FCC to approve Dish's spectrum transfer request. However, AT&T argued that Dish should be held to the same terrestrial buildout targets that the FCC imposed on LightSquared: at least 100 million POPs within 33 months, 145 million POPs within 45 months and 260 million POPs within 69 months.

"A new, next-generation LTE Advanced retail network simply cannot be viably built in the S-Band at the pace AT&T suggests," Dish wrote in its FCC filing. The company said it needs to wait for the LTE Advanced standard to be completed and suitable equipment to be designed so that it can launch its network with LTE Advanced technology, rather than another technology.

"Building a network before LTE Advanced devices are widely available would necessitate the use of an earlier standard, followed by a migration to LTE Advanced once network and consumer devices are available," Dish wrote. "Such a requirement would needlessly trigger backward compatibility and network modernization issues and costs for Dish's proposed network."

Dish said such LTE Advanced equipment for its S-band spectrum won't be available until 2015--which indicates that the company's planned mobile broadband network won't be launched for at least the next several years.

Separately, Dish also argued that its plan to launch a retail mobile broadband offering--instead of a wholesale mobile offering similar to what LightSquared intends to do--means that it needs more time to construct its network.

"Building a retail service from the ground up takes time and careful planning. Among other things, putting a new service together will require Dish to lease tower space across the nation, develop devices in conjunction with consumer electronics manufacturers, devise competitive rate plans, extend its brand identity, expand its national retail presence, upgrade its nationwide customer support/billing system, and maintain a competitive position in device and service offerings as customer expectations and demands evolve," Dish wrote. "At every step, a new retail service will face competitive pressure from incumbents with more experience and possibly a stranglehold on tower sites and other resources."

The comments are notable as they more clearly highlight Dish's mobile broadband strategy: To build a retail offering that would be sold straight to consumers. Indeed, Dish last year filed for the "Ollo" trademark to sell mobile phones, tablets, and telecommunications services.

Hanging over the issue is widespread believe that AT&T could be interested in purchasing or leasing spectrum from Dish. AT&T has said the FCC should not restrict Dish's ability to sell or lease its spectrum to larger telecommunications companies, a stipulation the agency placed on LightSquared. Dish made no mention of that issue in its most recent filing with the FCC.

For more:
- see this Dish FCC filing

Special Report: What's so great about LTE Advanced? (Lots, actually)

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