Ergen, Dish execs make in-person pleas to FCC on AWS-4 spectrum

Five Dish Network executives, including Chairman Charlie Ergen, met with top FCC officials last week to urge them to hurry up and adopt final rules in a proceeding that could allow Dish to launch an LTE Advanced network using 40 MHz of 2 GHz S-Band spectrum.

Ergen and his team held a series of meetings with a lengthy list of FCC officials, including Chairman Julias Genachowski; Rick Kaplan, chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau; and Ruth Milkman, Genachowski's special counsel for Innovation in Government.

At issue was the FCC's ongoing rulemaking exploring how the S-band of MSS spectrum, which the FCC has renamed "AWS-4," should be designed so the satellite spectrum can be repurposed for terrestrial use. Dish cannot use its S-Band spectrum for a terrestrial network until the rulemaking is settled and FCC approves Dish's plans.

"We noted that the pleading cycle is complete, and the record shows near unanimous support for promptly issuing AWS-4 authority to Dish. Modifying Dish's license is the fastest possible way to get the spectrum deployed for consumer use. Dish continues to make significant new investments, at its own risk, to accelerate its utilization of the 2 GHz spectrum. But, Dish needs regulatory certainty on the AWS-4 rules before it can fully undertake development activities," said the company in its ex parte filing summarizing the meetings.

Observers initially predicted that a decision in the AWS-4 rulemaking proceeding would take until late this year, but Dish executives have been saying they expect a decision before autumn. Dish is apparently applying some heat to ensure that happens.

Dish also made a push to gain support for revisions to its planned buildout schedule, which it contends "are reasonable given that Dish must start from scratch to deploy a new terrestrial network.

Dish has said it cannot launch its proposed LTE Advanced spectrum until 2016 or later--about 12 months longer than the FCC's current proposed buildout schedule. Under the FCC's proposed schedule, which requires Dish to launch its network in three years covering 30 percent of the U.S. population, Dish would lose its S-Band licenses if it fails to meet the three-year buildout deadline.

Dish said it also "urged the commission to issue the AWS-4 license based on the current spectrum assignment, and not risk the delay and potential interference issues associated with an upward shift of the AWS-4 uplink frequencies," as has been proposed by some parties.

The company expressed its preference for licensing AWS-4 spectrum on a nationwide basis rather than on an Economic Area (EA) basis, "because among other things smaller licenses are more difficult to administer and may not result in the most efficient deployment to the most capacity-constrained areas of the country."

As part of his lobbying efforts, Ergen also granted a rare interview to the Wall Street Journal last week, in which he said Dish has inked a deal with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) for chipsets to support devices running on its LTE Advanced network.

Ergen said in the interview that "obvious" carrier partners for Dish would include Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA, which might be able to tap into Dish's 2 GHz MSS spectrum.

Sprint in particular has shown consistent support for Dish's terrestrial network plans. In reply comments filed on June 1 regarding the FCC's rulemaking proceeding, Sprint said the commission should assign the AWS-4 license to Dish and modify Dish's authorization to permit terrestrial operations. Sprint also backed Dish's pitch for "more measured penalties in the event that the incumbent MSS licensee fails to meet its service milestones."

On the other hand, T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) have urged 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.

Meanwhile, Dish recently filed a handful of trademark applications for the brand "Dish Smart Home Services," which the company intends to use for its expansion into home automation services. The applications show that Dish would also like to use the brand to market "medical assistance services," home-theater installation services and services involving the installation and monitoring of solar-energy systems and alternative-energy products. The home automation service could be enabled by wired connections but might also be wirelessly enabled by its planned LTE Advanced network.

For more:
- see this Dish ex parte document
- see this Wireless Week article

Related articles:
Dish's Ergen: We have a deal with Qualcomm, working on others
Dish confirms plans to market 'Dish Smart Home Services'
T-Mobile, MetroPCS want Dish to give up 50% of its spectrum
Dish won't launch its LTE Advanced network until 2016 - or later