Dish won't face LightSquared's GPS issues, but spectrum's fate still uncertain

Dish Network's recently acquired S-band spectrum is not susceptible to the kind of interference concerns with GPS receivers that have bedeviled LightSquared. However, the ultimate fate of Dish's 40 MHz of spectrum is still up in the air as the FCC considers rules this year for the terrestrial use of Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) spectrum.

Dish's spectrum sits in the 2 GHz band, specifically from 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz, far away from band reserved from GPS receivers, which sits between 1559 and 1610 MHz. Additionally, because there is a small guard band built on either side of Dish's spectrum, it is further insulated from potential interference concerns. Dish acquired the radio waves in bankruptcy proceedings last year for $2.78 billion.

"I'd say there's no problem," Mike Marcus, director of Marcus Spectrum Solutions, told Bloomberg. "But it depends on what handset carriers like AT&T have sold or have plans to sell in the next few years, with respect to their sensitivity to being close in frequency."

The FCC last month, based on testing evaluated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said it would not allow LightSquared to build its planned wholesale LTE network due to GPS interference concerns. LightSquared has blasted the FCC's move and the testing, and has indicated it may fight the FCC's decision in court. LightSquared has long contended that GPS devices were not designed to properly filter signals from the company's L-band 1.6 GHz spectrum. The GPS industry has said it never anticipated LightSquared would build a nationwide terrestrial network using L-band satellite spectrum.

For Dish, the company's problem is not one of interference but of obtaining FCC approval for its planned LTE Advanced network. The FCC did not approve Dish's request for waivers to provide both dual-mode devices and single-mode terrestrial devices to customers who do not want the satellite function. Instead, the FCC plans to begin a rulemaking proceeding that will cover all MSS spectrum, not just the spectrum alloted to Dish.

Some analysts believe Dish will sell its spectrum rather than wait for FCC approval. According to a Bloomberg report, Dish's spectrum may be worth about $7.3 billion, according to Barclays Capital's James Ratcliffe. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen warned in February that a notice of proposed rulemaking could delay Dish's plans, and that "all options would be on the table for how we would move forward with the company and the spectrum."

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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