Previewing its Clearwire plans, Dish tests 50 Mbps fixed LTE service with nTelos spectrum

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) announced it recently completed a test of an LTE fixed wireless Internet technology that delivered speeds of 20 to 50 Mbps using 2.5 GHz BRS spectrum. Dish conducted the tests with regional wireless carrier nTelos, but Dish has said it would deploy virtually the exact same type of service if it is successful in purchasing spectrum from Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR).

Dish installed antennas on the rooftops of participants to test its fixed wireless LTE Internet service.

Dish inked an agreement with nTelos in May for a fixed-mobile broadband offering, though at the time the companies didn't provide many details on what they planned to do. In announcing the results of its tests, Dish said it partnered with Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) to activate two wireless tower test sites in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Waynesboro and Afton, Va. To conduct the tests, Dish said its technicians installed BandRich ruggedized outdoor routers with built-in high-gain antennas to receive the LTE signal. The tests made use of nTelos' 2.5 GHz BRS spectrum, at 2496 - 2690 MHz, which is exactly the same spectrum that Clearwire owns.

"The trial differentiates itself from prior fixed broadband services by relying on professionally installed rooftop devices at customers' homes that are intended to deliver significant gain and throughput advantages over inside-the-home antenna solutions," Dish said in a release.

"Dish has a nationwide workforce of professional technicians that can be dispatched to install both a satellite dish for our video service and an antenna for broadband on the same roof at the same time," said Tom Cullen, Dish's executive vice president of corporate development and the executive overseeing the company's wireless efforts.

Indeed, Dish has made no secret of its plans to use Clearwire's spectrum to deploy a fixed-wireless Internet service. "Dish has already offered concrete plans regarding how it would use the combined Dish/Sprint/Clearwire spectrum assets to create a robust fixed and mobile broadband service that will benefit customers throughout the U.S., including those in unserved and underserved rural areas," Dish wrote in an FCC filing dated June 11. "Among other things, using Dish's existing service installation infrastructure, a combined Dish-Sprint will be able to utilize the Clearwire 2.5 GHz spectrum in rural areas in a way that SoftBank cannot. In particular, Dish would offer nationwide installation of fixed wireless broadband antennas on top of consumers' homes, thereby delivering cable-quality broadband speeds to unserved and underserved rural areas."

Dish is in the midst of attempting to acquire Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), Clearwire and, reportedly, LightSquared. Dish recently suffered a setback in its quest for Sprint when Japan's SoftBank increased its bid for Sprint to 78 percent of Sprint for $21.6 billion, and Sprint said it cut off negotiations with Dish; Dish has until June 18 to present its best and final offer to Sprint.

However, Dish scored a victory in its pursuit of Clearwire this week when Clearwire's board of directors agreed to recommend Dish's $4.40 per share bid for Clearwire over Sprint's $3.40 per share bid for Clearwire. Clearwire shareholders are scheduled to vote on Dish's bid on June 24 and Sprint's shareholders are scheduled to vote on SoftBank's bid on June 25.

Meantime, Dish is reportedly working to acquire LightSquared out of bankruptcy, and could merge LightSquared's spectrum (at least the portion that does not interfere with GPS receivers) with the 40 MHz of S-band satellite spectrum in the 2 GHz band Dish purchased in 2011 for $2.775 billion. That spectrum has been renamed AWS-4 and has been cleared for terrestrial mobile broadband use. Dish The FCC has said Dish must cover at least 40 percent of the population in areas covered by its AWS-4 spectrum with a wireless network in the next four years, or face penalties. Further, the FCC said Dish must cover at least 70 percent of that population within seven years. Dish has said it plans to build an LTE Advanced network with its spectrum.

For more:
- see this Dish/nTelos release and video
- see this Dish presentation (PDF)
- check out this Dish FCC filing

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