Dish hoping to receive FCC go-ahead by summer's end

Dish Network is expecting a fairly quick resolution from the FCC regarding its broadband wireless plans, which are looking good to federal lawmakers from the satellite TV provider's home state as well as Standard & Poor's Rating Services.

The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) just last month regarding establishment of rules for stand-alone terrestrial services over 2 GHz MSS spectrum, which includes the S-band frequencies over which Dish hopes to launch an LTE-Advanced network. While some observers have said it could take till year's end for the rulemaking to be wrapped up, Dish is apparently hoping for a quicker resolution. An article in the Denver Post quoted Tom Cullen, Dish executive vice president, as saying, "We are optimistic that this process can be concluded by the end of summer." Adding that Dish is the largest publicly held Colorado-based employer, Cullen said the company "is prepared to invest billions of dollars and bring thousands of new jobs to the state" once it can start building its planned network.

According to the Denver Post, Dish, which is headquartered in Englewood, Colo., received significant legislative support on April 3, when Colorado's congressional delegation submitted a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in which it urged the commission to complete the MSS spectrum rulemaking as quickly as possible. The letter said the rulemaking "could go a long way toward alleviating the spectrum crunch, while spurring innovation, creating thousands of jobs and offering a meaningful competitive choice to consumers."

Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's upgraded its outlook for Dish to positive from stable, reflecting S&P's expectation that Dish will be able to provide greater clarity regarding its wireless strategy within the next year. S&P said the FCC's adoption of its NPRM would enable Dish to build out its planned LTE-Advanced network.

"We could raise our ratings on Dish if the company's wireless strategy is undertaken in such a manner that we did not believe that debt leverage, which was 2.2x at the end of 2011, would exceed 4.0x," said the rating company. S&P added that it could also revise Dish's outlook back to stable if the company pursues a significantly more aggressive financial policy than expected, most likely to develop and deploy its wireless strategy.

The ratings agency indicated that Dish needs LTE to maintain its competitive edge. S&P said Dish's lack of a triple-play package consisting of video, high-speed data and voice services potentially puts it at a competitive disadvantage longer term to cable-TV operators and Verizon Communications and AT&T, with their respective FiOS and U-verse video offerings. There also exists uncertainty regarding the impact on Dish's business from over-the-top operators, such as Hulu and Netflix, on the video distribution model.

Dish's 40 MHz of S-band spectrum sits at 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz and was gained when the company purchased the assets of bankrupt satellite-technology companies DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks in deals that settled last month.

For more:
- see this MarketWatch article
- see this RCR Wireless article
- see this Denver Post article

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