Dish's Ergen could confront FCC's Genachowski at PCIA show

ORLANDO, Fla.--Dish Network Chairman Charles Ergen and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will each give keynote speeches here tomorrow at the PCIA wireless infrastructure conference, and both are expected to sound familiar themes about their wireless priorities. 

That Ergen is speaking at a wireless infrastructure conference is an indication of how deeply involved in the mobile market Dish has become during the past year. Ergen's company paid $2.78 billion in 2011 for its 40 MHz of S-band satellite spectrum, and Dish is awaiting an FCC ruling on the terrestrial use of that spectrum before it makes more concrete wireless plans. Dish has said it plans to deploy an LTE Advanced network on the spectrum by 2016, but needs a waiver from the FCC to sell terrestrial-only devices for its business plan to work.

Some have speculated that Ergen will announce a partnership with another wireless carrier at the show. While a possibility, an announcement like that is unlikely to occur before the FCC finalizes its rules for the spectrum, officially known as the "AWS-4" band. Ergen is likely to press the FCC to finish up the rulemaking, grant it the waiver and not change Dish's spectrum positioning. The company has been arguing for months that the FCC should not shift part of its holdings by 5 MHz. 

Dish inked a deal in June with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Ergen said in August the company did so because Dish needed to ensure chipsets and handsets could be made that work with its spectrum regardless of the FCC proceeding.

It's unclear if Genachowski will touch on the Dish proceeding in his remarks. However, he is likely to discuss the need to get spectrum into the market more broadly, a key piece of his agenda since becoming chairman. The FCC voted last week to begin setting rules that will govern voluntary incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum for mobile broadband use. One avenue of his discussion could be the impact those auctions will have on the infrastructure industry, especially as broadcasters' spectrum holdings are shifted as part of the auction process.

Genachowski is also likely to touch on how the FCC has helped the infrastructure industry and continues to do so. In November 2009 the FCC ruled to give states and localities a so-called "shot clock" for tower siting applications. The rules state there is a deadline of 90 days to process applications for co-located facilities, where two or more providers share the tower, and 150 days for new towers.

For more:
- see this TMF Associates post

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