Dish relents, says it will accept 5 MHz guard band

Dish Network would be willing to accept changes to its spectrum holdings that would effectively make 5 MHz of its radio waves a "guard band" to protect spectrum that Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) has indicated it wants to bid on next year to use for LTE. However, Dish said that such a change would be acceptable as long as it was allowed to move ahead with the terrestrial deployment of the rest of its satellite spectrum as soon as possible. 

The disclosure was made in a recent FCC filing by Dish that detailed meetings Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen had last week with FCC commissioners on the issue. Dish's new position represents a softening of Dish's stance from earlier in November, when it lambasted a proposal circulated by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Genachowski's draft proposal would define rules for Dish's spectrum band, known as AWS-4. The proposal would set power limits on the lower portion of Dish's spectrum to prevent interference with the adjacent 1900 MHz PCS H Block. Separately, the FCC also said it will propose auctioning the H Block in 2013, and Sprint has said it would like to bid on the H Block and use it for LTE.

"Recognizing that the commission desires to retain flexibility in the future use of the H Block, Dish offered to voluntarily designate the lowest 5 MHz of its uplink spectrum (2000-2005 MHz) as an internal terrestrial guard band, provided that safeguards are adopted to ensure that the remaining 15 MHz of its uplink spectrum (2005-2020 MHz) can be utilized as fully and as quickly as possible for mobile broadband," Dish wrote in its filing.

That position would seem to clear the way for Dish's planned terrestrial LTE Advanced network deployment on its satellite spectrum. Dish's LTE Advanced network would coexist with the H Block, which runs right up next to Dish's lower spectrum holdings.

Dish controls 40 MHz of MSS S-band spectrum in the 2 GHz band. Dish received approval from the FCC in March to get access to the mobile satellite spectrum, but the FCC did not grant it a waiver to offer terrestrial-only services in that spectrum. Dish has said it plans to launch an LTE Advanced network on the spectrum by 2016 if the FCC allows terrestrial services.

Separately, Congress has mandated the FCC auction the H Block of spectrum by February 2015; the H Block is paired spectrum from 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz. Sprint has said repeatedly it supports Dish's plans but wants to protect both the PCS G Block and H Block from interference.

For more
- see this FCC filing
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article

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