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Dish fights back against AT&T, T-Mobile in advance of 600 MHz incentive auction

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Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) told the FCC that efforts by AT&T and T-Mobile to make it and its partners pay more to participate in the upcoming 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum auction are misguided.

T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) last week joined AT&T (NYSE: T) in filing documents encouraging the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling that names Dish and its affiliates SNR Wireless LicenseCo LLC and Northstar Wireless LLC as former defaulters that must pay higher upfront fees to participate in the auction. Similarly, AT&T has urged the FCC to take a harder line to deter potential defaults on 600 MHz bids.

Those lobbying efforts are in response to the decision from Dish's designated entity partners to give up roughly a third of the paired AWS-3 spectrum licenses they were awarded at auction last year. Dish's DEs surrendered roughly $3.4 billion of their winning bids, primarily in New York, Chicago and Boston. The DEs kept nearly $10 billion of the licenses they won at auction.

Dish, which owns an 85 percent economic stake in its DEs, had to pay a $515 million penalty for those bids, and the FCC could move to re-auction them. Dish's DEs could potentially bid on them in the future.

The issue centered on whether Dish's DEs were eligible for the FCC's small business discount. Dish argued that its bidding partners were eligible for the discount, which would have reduced their overall spectrum purchase during the AWS-3 auction from roughly $13 billion to roughly $10 billion. However, the FCC ruled that Dish's DEs were not eligible to receive the discount. As a result, Dish's DEs gave roughly $3 billion worth of the AWS-3 licenses they won during the auction back to the FCC. The FCC plans to eventually re-auction those licenses.

Nonetheless, Dish continues to argue for its position in the upcoming 600 MHz auction. "AT&T's filing, like that of T-Mobile, is nothing more than a transparent effort by an established wireless operator to create obstacles to limit participation in the upcoming auction for low-band spectrum that is critical for new wireless market entry," Dish wrote. "The Commission should not countenance such regulatory gamesmanship."

For more:
- see this Dish Network FCC filing

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