Sprint slams Dish's latest spectrum proposal

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) blasted Dish Network's latest proposal to set aside 5 MHz of the lower portion of its spectrum as a "guard band" to protect the PCS H Block. Sprint said in a recent FCC filing that Dish's proposal would actually lead to an increased risk of interference in the H Block, which Sprint has indicated it wants to bid on next year to use for LTE.

The jockeying between Sprint and Dish comes just days ahead of an FCC vote on rules for the terrestrial use of Dish's 40 MHz of spectrum, which is known as AWS-4, as well as rules for the auction of the H Block. The FCC will vote on those rules Dec. 12.

Earlier this week Dish said it would be willing to accept changes to its spectrum holdings that would effectively make 5 MHz of its radio waves a "guard band" to protect the H Block, the upper portion of which runs from 1995-2000 MHz and sits directly adjacent to the lower portion of Dish's spectrum.

In its filing, Sprint said Dish's is "vague and ambiguous, and of dubious value when compared to" the FCC's draft proposal, which would limit the transmission power of the portion of Dish's spectrum--2000 to 2005 MHz--that sits next to the H Block.

Specifically, Sprint said Dish still wants to power its proposed LTE Advanced network at unacceptably high power levels and has given no reason why it can't meet the lower power level standard the FCC is proposing. Sprint said the risk of interference from Dish's proposal is much higher than the FCC's plan, and for evidence Sprint showed a graphic of the Washington Nationals' stadium where the zone of potential interference caused by a Dish device to an H Block device is much larger in Dish's proposal than the one that would occur under the FCC's plan. 

Sprint also said Dish wants to hold the prospective bidder on the H Block to a more stringent standard for interference protection than it is willing to set for itself. Dish's proposal "would be technically challenging and would likely increase the cost to deploy an H Block network by hundreds of millions of dollars, thereby decreasing the likely interest of parties to bid on the H Block," Sprint wrote.

Finally, Sprint said regardless of how the FCC votes, Dish is still going to need to go back to the 3GPP to resolve technical issues related to the standards for its spectrum. Dish has said if its plan is modified by the FCC, the 3GPP process will set the deployment of its network back significantly. Sprint said Dish's proposal would actually produce a longer standard-setting process than what the FCC is proposing.

Dish has not yet officially responded to Sprint's filing.

Dish controls 40 MHz of MSS S-band spectrum in the 2 GHz band. Dish received approval from the FCC in March to get access to the mobile satellite spectrum, but the FCC did not grant it a waiver to offer terrestrial-only services in that spectrum. Dish has said it plans to launch an LTE Advanced network on the spectrum by 2016 if the FCC allows terrestrial services.

Separately, Congress has mandated the FCC auction the H Block of spectrum by February 2015; the H Block is paired spectrum from 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz. Sprint has said repeatedly it supports Dish's plans but wants to protect both the PCS G Block and H Block from interference.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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