Dish teams with nTelos for fixed-mobile broadband offering

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) struck a strategic deal with regional operator nTelos Wireless to co-develop a fixed-mobile broadband service within nTelos' coverage territory. The agreement represents just the latest prong in Dish's wide-ranging wireless ambitions.

Many details of the service remain unclear, and Dish and nTelos did not provide much in the way of explanation about their partnership in their announcement of the new service. The service will be available in nTelos' coverage area of Virginia, West Virginia and portions of Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. The companies said that once launched the service is expected to give nTelos and Dish customers access to reliable high-speed Internet, both at home and for mobile purposes.

Dish and nTelos did not say when the service will launch, how much it will cost, what spectrum it will run on or why the two companies struck their deal now. Dish spokesman Bob Toevs declined to comment on those aspects of the deal.

"We are still in a very early stage, so key details need to be worked out," he told FierceWireless. "We believe there is tremendous opportunity to address Americans who are unserved and underserved by broadband. We think we have a sound approach and this is an opportunity to explore the fixed wireless broadband space with [a] like-minded organization."

Toevs said the company expects the system to run LTE and that Dish and nTelos will likely be delivering the service "using the rooftop antenna scheme [Dish Chairman] Charlie [Ergen] outlined when we announced the Sprint proposal and relying on our service personnel to professional install those antennas as we do our satellite dishes. We believe there are significant customer benefits with regard end-user experience by having the gain and line of sight advantages that come from an outdoor installation."

nTelos said in late March that it would use gear from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) to launch LTE service later this year in "select markets" in Virginia and West Virginia. nTelos ended the first quarter with 451,000 total subscribers, including around 300,000 postpaid customers.

For Dish, the deal is another iteration of its multifaceted approach to the wireless market. The company controls 40 MHz of 2 GHz AWS-4 spectrum but has not said exactly when or how it will deploy those airwaves. Dish is also still pursuing Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), though Clearwire indicated it does think Dish will top Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) improved $3.40 per share bid to take control of the company. Dish is also reportedly going after bankrupt LightSquared and its L-band spectrum.

Meanwhile, of course, Dish is vigorously pursuing its $25.5 billion bid to take control of Sprint. According to a Wall Street Journal report, which cited unnamed sources, Dish is moving closer to lining up the $9 billion in committed financing it needs for its bid. The report said that Dish received signed commitment letters from five banks, including Barclays Bank and Jefferies & Co., and Dish has reportedly raised close to $12 billion for the deal. Sprint declined to comment, according to the Journal

Earlier this week SoftBank, which is still hoping to close its $20.1 billion deal for 70 percent of Sprint by July, agreed to let Sprint and Dish open confidential negotiations on Dish's bid and give Dish access to non-public financial information. Sprint is still expected to hold a June 12  meeting for its shareholders to vote on SoftBank's bid, which SoftBank continues to insist is superior. Dish continues to argue that SoftBank's purchase of Sprint would raise national security problems.

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

Related Articles:
nTelos to launch LTE this year using Alcatel-Lucent gear
Sprint increases its offer for Clearwire, hopes to stave off Dish
Dish's Ergen bids $2B for Falcone's LightSquared, according to reports
Reports: Dish lines up financing for $25.5B Sprint bid
Dish's Ergen: We have backup options in wireless if we lose Sprint deal

Article updated May 24 with additional information from Dish.

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