Dish won't launch its LTE Advanced network until 2016 - or later

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Dish Network said that it will not be able to launch its proposed LTE Advanced network using 40 MHz of S-Band spectrum until 2016 or later. This is about 12 months longer than the FCC's current proposed buildout schedule, which requires Dish to launch its network in three years covering 30 percent of the U.S. population. However, Dish has indicated that when it does launch its network, it will cover 60 percent of the U.S. population.

In a filing to the FCC, Dish provided details of its deployment plans. The company said that it will take at least 48 months from the time the 3rd Generation Partnership Project finalizes the S-Band specifications for LTE Advanced for Dish to launch its network. The 3GPP is not expected to finalize those specs until December, which means that Dish will not launch its network until at least December 2016 or later.

The FCC, which approved Dish's acquisition of S-Band satellite spectrum, has so far denied the company's request for a waiver to allow it to build a terrestrial wireless network. Instead, the agency has initiated a rule-making process that covers the topic. Initial comments on the proceeding were due May 17, replies are due June 1 and the agency would rule sometime after that.

Dish is arguing that the FCC's buildout requirements are not feasible and are not in line with similar requirements for terrestrial services. For example, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) have 10 years to cover 75 percent of the population using the 700 MHz spectrum licenses they won at auction.

In its filing, Dish said it needs 48 months after the LTE Advanced specifications are finalized to obtain network infrastructure equipment, chipsets and devices. The company also will have to upgrade its customer service and billing systems to support the new services as well as develop systems to meet regulatory requirements such as E911. In addition, the company will have to construct its backhaul network, deploy cell sites, and trial its service before launching.

Earlier this month, during Dish's quarterly earnings call, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen noted that Dish is willing to partner with other wireless companies to launch its proposed LTE Advanced network. "We're talking to everybody out there that has some piece of the wireless business that we think can help us either as a vendor or a partner or a customer, whether that be in the chipsets, the handsets, the towers and so forth and so on," he said.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

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