Sprint offers Dish an olive branch in clash over spectrum shift

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said that if the FCC agrees to auction the 1900 MHz PCS H Block and agrees to protect its adjacent PCS G Block from interference, Sprint will work with standards-setting bodies to ensure that all standards work for Dish Network's spectrum can be completed within six months or less.

The disclosure, in filings Sprint made to the FCC, is the latest in a string of tit-for-tat filings between Sprint and Dish over proposed rules for the 2 GHz S-band of MSS spectrum, which the FCC has renamed "AWS-4." The FCC is expected to issue final rules on the terrestrial use of the satellite spectrum by year-end.

In the filings, Sprint notes that it supports Dish's efforts to use its spectrum for terrestrial-only services. "Sprint has no interest in any delays in the 3GPP process over the next few months, but Sprint's legitimate concerns ... should be addressed immediately," Sprint CTO Stephen Bye and Lawrence Krevor, Sprint's vice president of legal and government affairs for spectrum, wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Dish currently owns 40 MHz of S-band spectrum--specifically from 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz. Dish hopes to launch an LTE Advanced network with its spectrum by 2016, but is awaiting rules from the FCC on its spectrum as well as word on whether the FCC will shift its holdings at 2000-2020 MHz up 5 MHz to 2005-2025 MHz. Dish has argued repeatedly against such a shift.

Dish argues that if its spectrum is shifted it will need to go through a 3GPP standard-setting process, which will set back its launch plans. In its new filings, Sprint argues that as long as the H Block is auctioned off and the G Block is protected from interference, it will work with Dish on the standards. Sprint wants to bid on the H Block spectrum and use it for LTE service; Congress has mandated the FCC auction the spectrum by February 2015.

"Moreover, Sprint is actively deploying 4G LTE mobile broadband communications services nationwide in the nearby PCS G Block (1910-1915 and 1990-1995 MHz)," Sprint wrote. "Thus, Sprint's primary interest herein is ensuring that terrestrial S-band uplink operations at 2000-2020 MHz do not cause increased interference to Sprint's G Block downlink operations at 1990-1995 MHz and do not make the H Block a de facto Dish guard band."

"With these outcomes and assurances in place, Sprint will actively facilitate completion of the remaining 3GPP standards process as expeditiously as possible assuming, of course, that Dish likewise agrees to facilitate the 3GPP standards process with respect to the 2 GHz S-band, and the PCS H and G Blocks," Sprint wrote. "Assuming such cooperation, Sprint believes that this work can be completed in six months or less, thereby benefiting all stakeholders and the public interest."

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen referred to the dispute obliquely Wednesday after delivering a keynote speech at the PCIA wireless infrastructure conference in Orlando, Fla. He noted that a competitor--Sprint--wants to shift Dish's holdings and that the FCC is trying to balance its desire to let Dish launch mobile broadband service with the mandate from Congress to auction the H Block. "That becomes a difficult thing to do from a policy perspective because you have two mouths to feed, or three mouths to feed," he said, noting that Dish wants flexibility to move forward with its wireless business plans.

For more:
- see this Sprint FCC filing
- see this separate Sprint FCC filing

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