The FCC said it will vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking at its next meeting later this month that could potentially delay Dish Network's planned LTE Advanced network.
In announcing its agenda for March, the FCC said it will begin considering rules proposing service, technical, assignment and licensing parameters for terrestrial use of MSS spectrum in the 2 GHz band. Further, the FCC said it will also consider a notice on inquiry into an alternative band plan involving additional spectrum at 1695-1710 MHz that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has proposed to reallocate from federal to commercial use.
Dish network is currently seeking FCC approval to gain control of 40 MHz of S-band spectrum in the 2 GHz band. Dish paid $2.78 billion to buy the spectrum last year from DBSD North America and TerreStar Networks and is simultaneously seeking a waiver from the FCC to provide both dual-mode devices and single-mode terrestrial devices to customers who do not want the satellite function.
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen warned last week that a notice of proposed rulemaking could delay Dish's plans. "I think if they went to rulemaking, that we'd look at the risk profile, which if we look at it today, would say that our risk profile would increase substantially," Ergen said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "And I think it would--it may be too risky for us to enter the business place. In which case, all options would be on the table for how we would move forward with the company and the spectrum."
On Wednesday, Dish said in a statement that it is looking forward to working with the FCC on the issue and that the notice of proposed rulemaking addresses important spectrum issues. However, the company also voiced its concerns. "Concurrent with the NPRM, we believe that the commission should grant our waivers," the company said. "Immediate grant of the waivers is essential for Dish to expeditiously put the S-band spectrum to competitive use. Time to market is critical, and we need regulatory certainty to begin development of consumer devices and to design our state-of-the-art, 100 percent 4G broadband network. A rulemaking alone would delay that process indefinitely."
Separately, the FCC said it will vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking that looks at the potential for harmful interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block operations if the different parts of the Lower 700 MHz Band were made to be interoperable and whether, if such interference exists, it can be reasonably mitigated. The FCC said in December it would initiate such a rulemaking when it approved AT&T's (NYSE:T) $1.93 billion purchase of Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Lower D and E Block 700 MHz MediaFLO spectrum licenses.
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