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Report: Sprint, Dish held talks on spectrum-hosting deal

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Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Dish Network, which are battling each other at the FCC over technical issues related to Dish's satellite spectrum, held talks recently on the possibility of Sprint hosting Dish's spectrum on its network, according to a Bloomberg report.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said that Sprint reached out to Dish and the companies had held talks in recent months. Under the arrangement, the companies could share revenue from customers who sign up for a Dish wireless service, or Dish might pay Sprint a fee for access to its network architecture.

Dish CEO Joseph Clayton declined to discuss talks with Sprint beyond saying, "We speak with everybody," according to Bloomberg. "We are open to spectrum-hosting opportunities with other spectrum holders who can't or don't want to build a network for their spectrum," Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat told Bloomberg.

Sprint tried to use its Network Vision network architecture to host LightSquared's L-band spectrum before the deal was scrapped due to the regulatory hurdles LighSquared ran into related to GPS interference. Sprint also previously partnered with a group of cable companies for a joint offering dubbed "Pivot," but that effort failed.

The news of a possible partnership between Sprint and Dish--which Dish has openly discussed as a possibility for months--comes as the two companies continue to spar via FCC filings over their plans for Dish's spectrum and an adjacent piece of spectrum, the PCS H Block, which Sprint wants to bid on next year to use for LTE.

The FCC will decide Wednesday on technical rules related to Dish's spectrum and the auction of the H Block. Sprint and Dish disagree about the interference protections necessary for the two blocks of spectrum.

In an FCC filing posted Monday, Sprint revealed that CEO Dan Hesse spoke by phone with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Dec. 5. The filing revealed that Hesse reiterated Sprint's longstanding positions on the issue--that Sprint supports Dish's plan to launch terrestrial service on its spectrum, known as AWS-4, but wants to protect both the PCS G Block and H Block from interference. Hesse emphasized Sprint's desire to bid on the H Block.    

Last week Dish said it would be willing to accept changes to its spectrum holdings that would effectively make 5 MHz of its radio waves a "guard band" to protect the H Block, the upper portion of which runs from 1995-2000 MHz and sits directly adjacent to the lower portion of Dish's spectrum. Sprint said that was insufficient because the power limits Dish was proposing would still cause interference with the H Block.

In its own FCC filing, Dish batted back against Sprint's recent claims about interference protections related to the AWS-4 spectrum and H Block. Dish said Sprint was raising "procedural, not technical, concerns with Dish's proposal, and those procedural concerns are either easily remedied or wholly speculative and without factual foundation."

Dish said Sprint has failed to provide a technical basis for why there should be stronger interference projections for the G Block and H Block than what Dish has proposed. "Dish's technical proposal offers a reasonable compromise solution where Dish would effectively sacrifice the terrestrial use of 5 MHz of its uplink spectrum to address the commission's desire to ensure flexibility in the future use of the H Block, while also addressing Dish's desire to be able to use its remaining 15 MHz of uplink spectrum to the maximum extent possible and as quickly as possible," Dish wrote in its filing.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Sprint FCC filing
- see this Dish FCC filing

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