Dish CEO: We could partner with T-Mobile if AT&T deal collapses

Dish Network could forge a wireless partnership with T-Mobile USA if AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile falls apart, according to Dish CEO Joseph Clayton. Interestingly, Clayton also said that Dish could partner with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which recently gave its assent to Dish's plans to acquire 40 MHz of S-band satellite spectrum in the 2 GHz band. 

In an interview with Bloomberg, Clayton said Dish could merge its spectrum assets with T-Mobile's spectrum. However, Clayton said Dish, which has publicly opposed the AT&T/T-Mobile merger as anticompetitive, is also interested in buying assets AT&T and T-Mobile might have to divest as a condition of their proposed transaction. 

"We're not interested in making money on selling our spectrum," Clayton said. "We want to use it to create a national wireless network, video, voice and data. We've got expertise in satellite-TV, and we will in satellite broadband. The voice part, we'll need some help with."

It's unclear if Clayton expanded on his comments on T-Mobile and Sprint. Bloomberg did not report much more beyond Clayton's brief statements on the topics.

In a separate interview with Reuters, Clayton also mentioned Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), LightSquared and MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) as potential partners. "We think we are well positioned with the Blockbuster acquisition, plus the wireless spectrum we have, which is almost as much as Sprint and T-Mobile has," Clayton said. "The building blocks are already in place to evolve."

Clayton's comments are interesting, particularly in light of two recent developments: Sprint's recent agreements with Dish and, separately, AT&T's request for a court delay in its push to acquire T-Mobile.

With Sprint, the nation's third largest carrier said in recent FCC filings that Dish's proposed LTE-Advanced network for its spectrum will not interfere with Sprint's operations on its adjacent 1900 MHz PCS spectrum. Sprint and Dish recently agreed on terms to get users off that spectrum, which Dish hopes to acquire from DSBD North America and TerreStar Networks. In November Dish paid Sprint $114 million to settle the dispute. Sprint CFO Joseph Euteneuer has said Dish might be a potential partner as well.

Separately, with AT&T, the nation's second largest carrier, filed a motion with U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle asking that all court proceedings between AT&T and the Justice Department be stayed until Jan. 18 so that AT&T and T-Mobile parent Deustche Telekom could "evaluate all options." The Justice Department joined in the motion and Huvelle granted it. Huvelle had been expected to rule this week on a decision to postpone the start of the trial, which the DOJ had requested; the Justice Department is suing against the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile on antitrust grounds.

"AT&T is committed to working with Deutsche Telekom to find a solution that is in the best interests of our respective customers, shareholders and employees," AT&T said in a statement. "We are actively considering whether and how to revise our current transaction to achieve the necessary regulatory approvals so that we can deliver the capacity enhancements and improved customer service that can only be derived from combining our two companies' wireless assets."

Both sides in the case asked the judge hold a Jan. 18 status conference "to address the course of any further proceedings in this action." AT&T and Deustche Telekom intend to filed a Jan. 12 status report "describing the status of their proposed transaction, including discussion of whether they intend to proceed with the transaction at issue in this litigation, whether they intend to proceed with another transaction," and their anticipated plans at the FCC. AT&T and Deustche Telekom have withdrawn their application for the deal from the FCC and intended to re-apply once the DOJ litigation was completed.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this NYT article
- see this Reuters article

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