Dish wins approval from 3GPP for Band 66 that combines its AWS-4 with AWS-1 and AWS-3

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) said the 3GPP has approved the designation of Band 66, a move that essentially creates an official location and vendor support structure for much of the company's spectrum holdings. Just how Dish will use its highly valued spectrum is still unclear, however.

Band 66 includes Dish's current AWS-4 downlink spectrum as well as AWS-1 and paired AWS-3. Dish said the approval will enable devices with Band 66 to support carrier aggregation, combining the downlink capabilities of the AWS-1, AWS-3 and AWS-4 bands.

Band 66 includes AWS-1 spectrum, which is designated as Band 4 and is a crucial LTE band in the U.S., Dish said. Indeed, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all are using Band 4 in their LTE buildouts.

"The standardization of Band 66 clears the path for Dish's upper AWS-4 spectrum to be included in the network and device ecosystem for both operators and consumers," said Tom Cullen, Dish's executive vice president of corporate development. "Interoperability of different spectrum bands increases network capacity and is an important priority for the FCC. This is a critical step forward on the path to deployment and commercialization."

Dish has amassed a stockpile of spectrum via acquisition and auction wins, and a Forbes report published today pegs the company as the fifth-largest holder of spectrum in the U.S. with roughly $37 billion worth of airwaves.

But Dish has yet to say what it plans to do with the valuable asset, leading to all kinds of speculation: Talks of a merger with T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) reportedly fell through earlier this year, and a Verizon (NYSE: VZ) executive recently downplayed rumors that the carrier would license Dish's spectrum. Dish could build out its own network, but that would require spending billions more to try to grab market share from one of the four major players. Or it could simply sell its licenses to the highest bidder.

"By pairing the AWS-3 uplink spectrum with valuable downlink spectrum on an asymmetrical basis," Dish said in the statement, "the overall utility of the spectrum will be enhanced to the benefit of consumers as the growth of applications like mobile video continue to require more downlink capacity."

In other Dish news, Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen placed day-to-day control of the company's pay-TV business into the hands of 20-year company veteran Erik Carlson, naming him president. While giving away one of his own titles to Carlson, Ergen moved COO Bernie Han to executive VP of strategic planning. Both will continue to report to Ergen. For more, click here.

For more:
- read this Dish Network press release

Related articles:
Dish's DEs give up $3.4B in AWS-3 spectrum, but Ergen's Verizon strategy remains intact
Verizon's Shammo throws cold water on licensing Dish's spectrum
Analysts: Verizon could strike deal to lease Dish's spectrum by end of 2015

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