Report: Dish to launch its own satellite broadband network

Dish Network will soon launch a proprietary, nationwide satellite broadband network, according to multiple reports, the latest indication that the company is keen to expand its service offerings.

The network, according to reports from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources, will be available by year-end. According to Bloomberg, the service will run off a recently launched satellite from Dish's sister company EchoStar, and will be formally unveiled in late September or early October. The service will likely offer speeds of 5 Mbps, Bloomberg reported, mainly to subscribers in rural areas without access to traditional broadband.

Dish declined to comment. The company currently offers satellite broadband through a partnership with ViaSat, but that service only covers portions of country, including areas east of the Mississippi River and the West Coast.

The service is distinct from Dish's efforts to use its MSS S-band 2 GHz spectrum to launch an LTE Advanced mobile broadband network. Dish is awaiting final FCC rules on the terrestrial use of MSS spectrum and is seeking a crucial waiver to offer terrestrial-only devices. However, Dish has indicated it will move ahead with handsets that use the satellite component of the wireless network regardless of the FCC's actions.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, who has been of late a more vocal and visible proponent of the company's wireless plans, praised the FCC for moving ahead with the rules--which are expected by year-end--but said that until they are issued Dish cannot move forward on deploying the network.

"The only problem I see with the time that has gone by is that it's become increasingly risky for us to try to go it alone," Ergen told the Denver Business Journal. "That process takes more than three years, and there's not any way to make that go faster, so we're probably going to lose that time-to-market advantage, because while we're handcuffed, AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) are continuing to plan and put in ways they can build that out before we can get there."

Ergen discussed the quandary facing Dish as it awaits the rules, noting the company could partner with another carrier or share cell sites, but that the FCC may place conditions on such partnerships. In the meantime, Dish is talking with OEMs, network vendors and tower companies about its plans.

"The question we get is, 'When is the FCC going to approve your application?' And we don't know that," Ergen said. "We can't go place an order to go build $1 billion worth of [wireless network] radios until we know what frequencies to use. We don't know that today. That's why I say were handcuffed."

Ergen also talked up the economic benefits of the proposed wireless network, saying it could bring 5,000 to 10,000 jobs to Colorado, where he hopes to base the wireless operations. Nationwide, he told the Denver Post, the network could generate 25,000 jobs.

"The net effect of the delay is that it has become more increasingly unlikely that we would be able to build a network from scratch ourselves," Ergen said. "I think we had all our options open if we had gotten it done by the first of the year... We're still cautiously optimistic that we can enter the business and create a great product for consumers."

Dish said in a filing to the FCC in May that it will not be able to launch its proposed LTE Advanced network using its spectrum until 2016 or later. This is about 12 months longer than the FCC's current proposed buildout schedule, which requires Dish to launch its network in three years covering 30 percent of the U.S. population. However, Dish has indicated that when it does launch its network, it will cover 60 percent of the U.S. population.

Dish has said that it will take at least 48 months from the time the 3rd Generation Partnership Project finalizes the S-band specifications for LTE Advanced for Dish to launch its network. The 3GPP is not expected to finalize those specs until December, which means that Dish will not launch its network until at least December 2016 or later.

Dish, which paid $2.78 billion in 2011 for its spectrum in bankruptcy proceedings, has argued that the FCC's buildout requirements are not feasible and are not in line with similar requirements for terrestrial services. For example, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility have 10 years to cover 75 percent of the population using the 700 MHz spectrum licenses they won at auction.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Denver Business Journal article
- see this Denver Post article

Related Articles:
Dish to plow ahead on wireless handsets regardless of FCC action
Dish builds $5.6B cash pile for wireless play
Dish's Ergen: We have a deal with Qualcomm, working on others
Dish won't launch its LTE Advanced network until 2016 - or later
Dish's Ergen: We have enough spectrum for wireless biz
Dish chairman: Without LTE, we're 'a one-trick pony'

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