Should Dish hand over its LTE-A network to a partner?

Should Dish Network let a third-party operate a wireless broadband network on its 2GHz S-Band spectrum, which the pay-TV provider could then turn around and market under its own brand along with its entertainment products? That's what the team at stock analysis website Trefis advises.

"Investors are likely to be skeptical if Dish were to spend heavily on capital expenditure in building out its network. Hence, a better strategy is to let a third-party operate the network using Dish's spectrum," said the Trefis team, in a column published by Forbes. "Dish could then market its wireless broadband offering under its own brand and bundle it with its current pay-TV offering, along with Blockbuster streaming, to form an attractive package."

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.

Users of e-readers and tablets are more likely than smartphone users to sign up for Dish's wireless broadband offering, Trefis speculated. That's because smartphone users, at least in the near term, will be more likely to stay with large telcos that have established voice and data service and also can provide substantial smartphone subsidies, according to Trefis.

Of course, Dish is far from being able to roll out its planned broadband network, given that it hasn't yet received the FCC waivers needed to use the spectrum that it acquired through acquisitions of TerreStar and DBSD North America. Dish has been pushing the FCC to hurry up and adopt final rules in a proceeding that would provide an initial step toward enabling the company to launch an LTE-Advanced network using the 40 MHz of 2 GHz S-Band spectrum it now holds.

Top Dish executives, including Chairman Charlie Ergen, held a series of meetings with FCC officials during the month of June regarding the commission's ongoing rulemaking exploring how the S-Band, which the FCC has renamed "AWS-4," should be designed so the satellite spectrum can be repurposed for terrestrial use.

According to an ex parte filing, Ergen and his team met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman and others on June 28 to discuss why the timing of the rules adoption in the 2 GHz MSS spectrum proceeding is important to Dish's broadband rollout plans. Observers initially predicted that a decision in the AWS-4 rulemaking proceeding would take until late this year, but Dish executives have publicly stated that they expect a decision before autumn.

Dish execs also explained to FCC officials why they feel a proposed upward migration of the 2000-2020 MHz band is unnecessary and not in the public interest.

"First, a 5 MHz move could present interference problems for the S-band uplink from users of the 2025-2110 MHz band. Second, a move would prevent Dish from using all 20 MHz of satellite uplink spectrum, because the satellites cannot receive transmissions above 2020 MHz. Finally, the standard-setting body 3GPP has already adopted Band 23 for the present frequencies (2000-2020 MHz, 2180-2200 MHz), and any upward shift would require the band definition to be re-opened and cause further delay," said Dish in its ex parte filing.

According to Dish's filing, the company also discussed its recent collaboration with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) to enable support for satellite and terrestrial communications in the Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 platform for use in future Dish wireless devices.

For more:
- see this Forbes article
- see this Dish ex parte filing

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