FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- A Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) executive said the satellite firm may participate in the FCC's upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction and is currently evaluating its options. She also said that FCC's recent decision to deny $3.33 billion in discounts to two Dish affiliates that won spectrum in the AWS-3 auction will not impact Dish's eligibility to participate in the upcoming incentive auction.
Speaking at the 2015 Competitive Carriers' Association conference here, Alison Minea, director and senior counsel of regulatory affairs at Dish Network, said that the company is analyzing the 600 MHz auction rules and figuring out what it will do.
In August, the FCC voted unanimously to deny $3.33 billion in discounts to two Dish affiliates -- Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless -- that won spectrum in the AWS-3 spectrum because the FCC said Dish effectively controlled the two companies. The ruling prevents Dish's affiliates from obtaining a 25 percent discount for small businesses on AWS-3 spectrum licenses. Last week the two affiliates agreed to give up around a third of the paired AWS-3 spectrum licenses they won earlier this year in the auction -- mostly spectrum licenses covering New York, Chicago and Boston.
Although Dish said it will participate in the FCC's upcoming incentive auction of TV broadcasters' 600 MHz spectrum, Sprint (NYSE: S) said recently that it will not participate in the auction. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Kathleen Ham said that Sprint's announcement was not a surprise because Sprint hadn't been that active in discussions about the auction at the FCC. Ham added that Sprint hasn't participated in a spectrum auction since 1996, when it bid for PCS spectrum.
Interestingly, Union Wireless Chief Technology and Operations Officer Eric Woody said that he was hopeful Sprint's lack of participation might provide an opening for smaller operators. Woody said that Sprint's absence creates "one less deep pocket" for smaller carriers to compete with.
Woody also compared spectrum to land, noting: "They are not making more." He added that his company does want more low-band spectrum and said that he expects some of the bigger players to compete with Union in some of its markets even though they currently aren't offering service in those markets. "We know they will be playing and it's a concern. It will be challenging to make sure we can find the money for the spectrum we need," he added.
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This article was updated Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET to reflect that Dish is still evaluating whether or not to participate in the 600 MHz auction.