T-Mobile and Dish Network bicker over extension of 600MHz spectrum loan

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With T-Mobile and Dish Network coming to an agreement that helped get the T-Mo-Sprint merger done and Dish lending T-Mobile its 600MHz spectrum during the coronavirus pandemic, some might think that the two companies are pretty friendly. But a new FCC filing suggests that they might not be quite as chummy as some thought.

T-Mobile recently submitted a filing with the FCC to ask for an extension on the agreement that’s allowing T-Mo to use Dish’s 600MHz spectrum to augment its network during the pandemic. Included in the filing is an email from a Dish executive to the FCC and T-Mobile objecting to T-Mo’s request for an extension for a few reasons, including the argument that T-Mo was purportedly using Dish’s spectrum as part its marketing.

Dish claims that since T-Mobile gained access to the 600MHz spectrum on March 15, T-Mo “has publicized the capacity benefits of this spectrum in press statements, tweets and advertisements in an apparent effort to acquire new subscribers,” including TV commercials that focused on T-Mo’s doubled 600MHz capacity.

“The purpose of Dish’s initial grant was to help T-Mobile increase capacity during the crisis to serve customers, not to use Dish’s spectrum as part of a commercial marketing effort,” the Dish exec says.

Dish also argues that T-Mobile’s request was “procedurally improper”. The FCC rules about extensions like this say that parties should ask for an extension 10 days before the end of the current agreement. Dish’s original agreement ended on May 14, and Dish argues that T-Mo gave no reason why it didn’t ask for the request by the due date on May 4 instead of waiting until May 12.

T-Mobile responded to Dish’s arguments in its FCC filing, saying that its request wasn’t improper because the FCC rules only say that extension requests “should” be submitted 10 days before the end of the current agreement. T-Mo also says that it had a reason not to submit its request earlier, which is that it was negotiating with Dish for the continued use of that 600MHz spectrum with Dish’s consent.

As for Dish’s argument that T-Mobile advertised the added spectrum to attract new customers, T-Mo calls that an “unsubstantiated claim.” T-Mobile says that Dish and other companies allowed it to use the loaned 600MHz spectrum in support of increased customer demand and that T-Mobile’s communication to customers was to provide assurances that the network can continue to deliver the service customers expect.

T-Mobile goes on to cite some stats that show customer usage during the coronavirus to back up its request for an extension on this 600MHz loan. T-Mo says usage of smartphones for hotspot tethering on its network is up 57% and that wireless traffic has significantly grown in residential locations where the network is frequently less dense.

Ultimately, Dish did agree to extend T-Mobile’s loan of the 600MHz spectrum so long as T-Mo shuts off those airwaves within 72 hours of Dish notifying T-Mobile to vacate them or until June 30, 2020, whichever comes first.

Dish also asked T-Mobile to exclude license call sign WQZM540 because Dish had planned on performing its own testing in the Denver market on May 15th.

This whole kerfuffle is notable because of the aforementioned part where Dish helped T-Mobile get its Sprint merger approved by the government. When the Justice Department gave the merger the green light, it based that decision on an agreement that Dish would purchase Sprint’s prepaid businesses and that T-Mo would provide cell sites and retail locations to Dish, all in an effort to help make Dish into a fourth competitive US carrier.

Via: Light Reading
Source: FCC

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  • Glenn Gore

    I don’t see a problem here. What is Dish going to do with the spectrum if they do not allow T-Mobile to continue using it for a while? The answer to that question is quite obvious: nothing. They never have used it and they probably never will. Dish is the most notorious spectrum-squatter there is, with the close-behind US Cellular on its heels.

    • Willie D

      Well they’re going to have to rely on TMo to build out for the first few years..unless Dish makes deals with Verizon or AT&T to deploy on their network to augment where TMo isnt go be a willing partner or play nice. TMo probably thinks this will get Dish to sell TMo B71 spectrum and tightening the cord around Dish neck regarding building out vs paying the FCC vs selling some spectrum to offset the fines that will inevitably be imposed. Just one slick way TMo is pushing an up and coming competitor to sell out before it takes TMo down.

      • dcmanryan

        Interesting analogy and I agree with you.

    • Shaun Michalak

      “Dish had planned on performing its own testing in the Denver market on May 15th.”

      This to me is saying that Dish is doing something to get their network up and going.. But I will agree.. In the markets where they are not using it, there is nothing for them to lose by letting T-Mobile use it.. Especially since they are now squatting on T-Mobiles network for their customers right now.. So in essence, they are actually helping their customers by allowing T-Mobile to use it.

      • Mike Smith

        Especially when T-Mo will give them access to it anyway

    • marque2

      They will probably rent it out to TMobile in exchange for more favorable MNVO rates from TMobile.

    • dcmanryan

      It’s Dish Network’s to do as they see fit. If they can’t get the deal they want with T-Mobile why would they just let them use it? Like I said in my post on the matter a week or so ago, T-Mobile is and has been the bully and they should expect zero handouts and I knew this was coming. Dish and T-Mobile are not friends and never will be.

  • Mike Smith

    If only T-Mo and Dish could merge… T-Mo would get the the spectrum and maybe finally be competitive in streaming TV.

    • Willie D

      But alas, no Dish deal unless Charlie Ergan is the one at the helm of the merged companies. And since that isnt happening on the DTelekom side… here we are.

    • Shaun Michalak

      It will not happen.. The thing is, that would make 3 carriers, which is completely against the 4 carriers, and Dish being that 4th carrier, from the start.. Not only that, but with the frequency that Dish has, the FCC would probably force T-Mobile to sell off some of that frequency due to how much they would then have.. They already have more then any of the others with what they got from Sprint, and in that agreement, they had to sell off Sprints 800 mhz spectrum to Dish to get that agreement..

      • Mike Smith

        It could happen. The 4 carrier thing was a condition of the merger and the merger has concluded. If Dish decides they can’t make a go of it after all things could always change.

        • Shaun Michalak

          true, but with a lot of fines, penalties, etc too

  • Mike McDonald

    I’m of the belief Charlie Ergen desperately wants an offer for DISH. Echostar likely would stand on its own as a satellite operator but the DISH side, if something doesn’t change soon, appears to have a limited future just like Sprint. However, Mr Ergen is a master of the bluff and brinkmanship. DISH was granted a lifeline by getting included in the merger when it really had no standing to do so. My guess is Mr Ergen believes and has wagered everything on the various regulatory agencies NOT recovering any spectrum DISH presently owns/controls. DISH will squat as long as it takes to extract the highest price because there will always be some waiver, some extension and no spectrum will be lost.

  • Mike

    This news is not surprising since the spectrum belongs to Dish after they won it from the same auction that Tmobile was in. What’s amazing was all the hype Tmobile did when they won some 600 mhz spectrum then. The question is, why didn’t they bid on more spectrum in the first place? Being cheap comes to mind….