Dish reportedly wants FCC spectrum use deadline waived in exchange for buying T-Mobile-Sprint assets


Much of the focus on T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger lately has been on Dish Network and its Chairman Charlie Ergen. Ergen was rumored to be ready to spend $6 billion on assets from T-Mo and Sprint in a move that’d help the merger’s odds of gaining approval from the Department of Justice, but now some say that he’s not close to striking such a deal. Now another report with more info on Ergen’s intentions has come out.

Dish is reportedly seeking a deal that would waive the FCC’s March deadline on Dish to use or lose some spectrum licenses that it bought previously. In exchange, Dish would buy assets from T-Mobile and Sprint including spectrum and subscribers, says Bloomberg. It’s rumored that the DOJ wants T-Mobile and Sprint to help create a fourth competitive U.S. carrier before it’ll approve their merger, and Dish buying up assets from the two carriers would aid in that.

While Dish isn’t the only company that could buy T-Mobile and Sprint’s assets — Comcast, Charter, and Amazon are other possible buyers that’ve been suggested — but Dish has a hoard of spectrum that makes it probably the best option of that group to create a competitive carrier. Dish has been facing pressure from the FCC to use the spectrum it’s amassed or have it taken away, and now it sounds like Dish is using its position as the best option for a fourth U.S. carrier to try and get that pressure taken off.

Rumors have suggested that Dish could spend $6 billion or more to buy assets from T-Mobile and Sprint, but today’s report says a swap deal is also a possibility. In this scenario, Dish would provide some spectrum to T-Mobile and then T-Mo would give Dish access to capacity on its network for wireless service. This would enable Dish to offer cellphone service while also saving it some cash since it wouldn’t have to build a network from scratch.

Yesterday we heard that Ergen is taking his time striking a deal with T-Mobile and Sprint, waiting for what he feels is the best deal for him. Getting the FCC to stop pressuring him to use or lose Dish’s spectrum sounds like the kind of deal he’d be after, so now we’ll just have to wait and see if Dish, T-Mo, Sprint, and the FCC can come to an agreement.

Source: Bloomberg

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  • Sharti24

    Extended, yes. Waved? No way

    • Dharharr

      Agreed. Give them an extension, buy boost and get on with the merger approval!

    • JG

      Agreed. They should only be given a limited extension… And then only if they can prove to the FCC (and anyone else of significance) that they’re actively working on deploying the spectrum and just hit a snag.

      If, though, they’re simply warehousing the spectrum and are not actively working on deploying it in some fashion they most certainly should be forced to relinquish it.

      There’s a fixed amount of spectrum available and obviously it is in high demand. If they’re not using it, it should be reallocated to someone who actually will.

      • Sharti24

        I believe dish never intended to deploy a cellular network. They bought the spectrum with the intention of selling it off in the future for a profit

        • JG

          Yeah, that’s my thought as well.

          But got to give them the benefit of the doubt, hence the prevision.

          Take for example T-Mobile’s TV service. It launched later than they had originally announced. It took them longer than they expected to work out deals or whatever.

          But T-Mo could have shown the FCC their emails with the TV networks and said “we’re working on it, we just need a few more months”. But if they were just sitting on it, to resale later or whatever… Then likely they wouldn’t have any emails or whatever to show.

          In that case, since Pai is obviously working for the greater good of the American people… The FCC must reclaim as much spectrum as they can and redistribute it to companies who will actually use it.

        • Jarod Weaver


      • SirStephenH

        Dish has been working in bad faith this whole time and acquiring New T-Mobile assets would advance its ability to meet build out requirements, not extend them. It can reasonably be argued that there is no need for an extension and that any extension given would be abused just as the previous build out requirements were.

  • Jerry Rich

    Why would anyone want Sprint, let Dish have them.

    • slybacon

      They own a ton of 2.5GHz spectrum that T-Mobile desperately wants to use for mid-band 5G service. T-Mobile has low-band and high-band spectrum already. Mid-band would complement those greatly.

    • Mike Smith

      No one wants Sprint, they are a debt ladden company with some spectrum. You think anyone wants an office in Kansas City and all their employees that got passed on by the three major carriers? Let’s face it… the best and brightest people haven’t gone to live in the Midwest for the last placed carrier.

      • marque2

        Wow you are a bigoted elitist.

        • Android_God

          Truth sometimes is painful to hear

        • Jarod Weaver

          Actually, not true. They have tons of spectrum, namely in the 2.5 GHz that really any carrier would die for, as it is really optimal mid-band 5G spectrum that wouldn’t need as many new sites to cover since its the same as the LTE spectrum.

        • Mike Smith

          And yet… no customers and no offers.

        • marque2

          But you don’t seem very pained by it.

        • Mike Smith

          Well you’ve obviously never tried to recruit talent… but working for the last placed team in the middle of fly over land doesn’t appeal to most talented young grads.

          Sprint sucks because no one with a clue will live in Kansas.

      • SirStephenH

        “No one wants Sprint, they are a debt ladden company with some spectrum.”

        Sprint is not in danger of going under any time soon and it has the most spectrum out of the top four carriers, about the same as T-Mobile and Verizon combined. And then you go into elitist crap…

      • Ummon

        You’re right, all the smart people want to get taxed into the ground in a PC nuthouse on the coast.

    • SirStephenH

      Dish doesn’t want Sprint, it wants assets that New T-Mobile is being forced to sell off after the T-Mobile/Sprint merger goes through. Some of those assets will be Old T-Mobile’s and some will be Old Sprint’s but Dish IS NOT buying Sprint.

  • randian

    The only way a fourth carrier would be competitive would be if it had as much spectrum as T-Sprint, which would leave T-Sprint a lot less spectrum compared to AT&T and Verizon. Why should T-Sprint subsidize the competition while AT&T and Verizon get off not having to divest anything?

    • JG

      Why should T-Sprint subsidize the competition while AT&T and Verizon get off not having to divest anything?

      NOTE: This comment is going to contain some complicated maths, so get a piece of paper and a calculator now… You have been warned…

      I get the 4<3 argument (I was almost a maths minor at uni) and that with less competition we could potentially expect consumer prices to go up etc. After all, just look at cable. Even larger cities like New York City's Manhattan only has a single cable provider. And our cable bills almost certainly go up each year. And Comcast clearly doesn't care much if they're the most hated company in the country. They know you gotta deal with them or go without.

      But what makes four carriers the competition sweet spot? Why not six? (here's where the complicated maths comes into play) While 4<3, 6<4.

      Instead of dealing with this merger, why don't we force Verizon and AT&T to each split into two seperate companies (like we did to Ma Bell back in the 80s)?

      Then, rather than losing one, we gain two… 6 carriers would be a lot more competitive than 4 would… As an added benefit, all 6 would be of comparable size. We'll have six mom & pop stores competing against each other rather than two mega box stores vs two mom n' pops (or worse, a mom n' pop and a kid's lemonade stand).

      • Jarod Weaver

        Under an Obama FCC, they welcomed more and more cellular competition, but they were setting the standard that they did not want to go below big 4 national carriers. Why they said 4? There was only really 4 when his FCC and DOJ came into play. They knew 4 was still bad to a point, but they didn’t want to go lower than that knowing it would be even worse. Prices from Verizon and AT&T and just their corporate interests prove that to this very day. Under this day and age, they won’t even try to split them up, under current administration. It’s too pro-business, except for Trump trying to get AT&T Time Warner blocked, only good thing he did.

      • SirStephenH

        If you simply split AT&T and Verizon then the resulting 4 companies would be smaller than T-Mobile and Sprint. The answer is to split off a third of AT&T and Verizon and merge them into a fifth carrier. That would result in 5 roughly equal nationwide carriers.

        “I get the 4<3 argument (I was almost a maths minor at uni) and that with less competition we could potentially expect consumer prices to go up etc."

        It's hard to pay serious attention to anyone supposedly talking about math when they can't even use the greater than and less than symbols correctly. You are saying that 4 is less than 3 in that example and you get it just as wrong which every other use.

        P.S. Using the greater than and less than symbols over and over in a post is not "complicated maths".

        • JG

          Ha… Yes, I guess I did use the wrong symbol… My bad. I can’t even figure out which way Pac-Man should munch…

          Maybe there’s a reason I never finished the maths minor…

  • vrm

    t-mobile made a big mistake by not engaging in separate negotiations with other cable cos who were interested, leading to this last moment upstaging by dish. They should have known about Charlie by now.

    • SirStephenH

      T-Mobile is working on other deals and is even advancing plans of auctioning off assets and a backup plan. Dish is just the most likely party to buy off assets so it gets all the news.

  • Joe2050

    This is like a game of Chess with Dish coming in the picture and taking advantage of the current situation.

  • Jarod Weaver

    The FCC should tell that rich dirtbag no, and threaten to move it up, just for asking. Time for the government to have a spine for the first time.

  • Sharti24

    So i guess US cellular has no interest in expanding their market

  • emcdonald75

    How long do you think it will take for the wireless carriers to re-purpose their current 2G/3G/4G spectrum for 5G? 4 years? 8 years?

    • Sharti24

      I know right? T-mobile is deploying 5G but they still have 2G active, What a joke. Theres a reason Att and Verizon are better networks

      • SirStephenH

        As you very well know, T-Mobile only has 2G in the guard bands which doesn’t effect the spectrum block’s use for other technologies. 3G on the other hand is not used in the guard bands and is therefore very wasteful. It would be nice if you’d stop pretending like you don’t know these facts.

        • Sharti24

          Correct, i know these facts but a fact is i dont want my phone connecting to that crap signal in a weak area. id rather have no signal then be frustrated with the slowness of 2G edge. (And no i cant choose LTE only mode because i use an iphone).

          Att shut down edge two and a half years ago why even keep it around? Oh thats right “M2M customers” Att and verizon have better networks period. No one chooses Tmobile for their coverage, We choose them for price

        • SirStephenH

          iPhones are known to be very finicky with cellular connections when compared with the average Android, especially with GSM networks like T-Mobile and AT&T. That and the lack of choice Apple provides in not offering the ability to choose what network technologies to use kinda makes this Apple’s fault. It’s also sounds like you live in an area without low-band. 2G has slightly better range than newer technologies but most phones will still avoid it unless absolutely necessary. None of this is the fault of T-Mobile still having 2G in the guard bands.

        • marque2

          Don’t know what “This user is blocked” said, but the major carriers are hinting at 2020 – 2022 for 3g shutdown. Verizon claims CDMA will be out at the end of the year. TMobile kept 2g as a business play for all the vending machines that only did 2g. TMobile got AT&T business that way when AT&T shut it down. If it goes to 5g expect maybe 15% more bandwidth. Note TMobile already dumped HSPA on band 4 and only has HSPA+ remaining. So they are getting there.

        • SirStephenH

          emcdonald75 said…

          “How long do you think it will take for the wireless carriers to re-purpose their current 2G/3G/4G spectrum for 5G? 4 years? 8 years?”

          2G is also only in the guard bands (padding between blocks of spectrum) on T-Mobile so it doesn’t even effect the use of spectrum for other technologies besides narrow band LTE which also uses guard bands. There are plenty of guard bands to go around though and T-Mobile is nowhere near running out of them. The only reason for T-Mobile to ditch 2G at this point is if the costs of maintaining support end up outweighing the benefits.

          T-Mobile has cut 3G (HSPA+, can still fall back to HSPA and UMTS) down to practically nothing in most areas but unlike its competitors it has not committed to completely ditching the wasteful and unneeded technology.

  • SirStephenH

    “Dish is reportedly seeking a deal that would waive the FCC’s March deadline on Dish to use or lose some spectrum licenses that it bought previously.”

    Absolutely not! Dish has had ample time to roll out a network and it has done absolutely nothing towards that goal all this time. If absolutely necessary they could do a limited delay (I’d go no more than 12 months) but I’d argue that nothing in this deal would significantly delay any plans that they supposedly have. If anything this deal would make it easier to meet deployment requirements.

  • dtam

    eff you dish network!