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FCC commissioner pushes for Dish spectrum rules by October

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Dish Network may find out the fate of its AWS-4 spectrum holdings before fall if FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has his way.

Ajit Pai

Ajit Pai

Noting that the comment cycle is closed regarding proposed rules for the 40 MHz of 2 GHz satellite spectrum held by Dish, Pai said it's time for the FCC to complete work on the band and facilitate its use for terrestrial broadband.

"Over the next two-and-a-half months, we should roll up our sleeves, hammer out the necessary details and get this done," said Pai, speaking July 10 before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology about FCC oversight.

"We should issue such rules no later than the end of September" regarding AWS-4, Pai told the subcommittee, according to his prepared remarks.

Pai noted the National Broadband Plan forecast that the FCC would be able to dedicate to mobile broadband spectrum bands comprising 180 MHz by the end of 2011. "It is now the middle of 2012, and still none of the identified bands can be utilized effectively for mobile broadband," he said.

Though Pai is pushing for a late summer ruling on AWS-4, he did not indicate whether he feels Dish should receive the waivers it requires to roll out an LTE-Advanced network on the S-Band spectrum it gained through acquisitions of bankrupt companies TerreStar and DBSD North America.The AWS-4 band was identified in the National Broadband plan, and Pai said opening up those frequencies "could set the stage for future spectrum successes."

It might be a long-shot for Dish to get everything it wants in the FCC's AWS-4 ruling. For one thing, the company said in a May filing with the commission that it would not be possible to launch an LTE-Advanced network over its spectrum until 2016 or later, which is about 12 months longer than the FCC's current proposed buildout schedule. Further, T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) have prodded the FCC to take back half of Dish Network's 2 GHz spectrum holdings in exchange for allowing the company to use the remainder for terrestrial broadband service.

The team at stock analysis website Trefis recently recommended that if Dish is allowed to use its S-Band spectrum for a terrestrial wireless broadband network, the pay-TV company should let a third-party conduct the network buildout and operation while Dish markets the broadband service under its own brand along with its entertainment products.

Trefis also suggests that Dish initially market fixed residential broadband before providing "stand-alone wireless broadband services for tablets and smartphones," reasoning that it will be easier for Dish to establish a brand it can bundle with its pay-TV offerings for the home.

For more:
- see Pai's prepared remarks

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