It's Official: FCC OKs Dish, H Block Items

Unanimous vote frees up more spectrum for terrestrial wireless broadband
Author:
Publish date:

As expected, the FCC officially voted Tuesday to reallocate
40 MHz of satellite spectrum -- owned by Dish -- for terrestrial broadband, and
to approve a proposal of the adjacent H Block of spectrum (10 MHz) for auction
in 2013, presumably for terrestrial broadband as well.

The vote was 5-0. B&C/Multi had
reported earlier in the day
that a majority had voted to approve
both items, which only left the question of whether the other commissioner
would vote it by day's end, as expected, or it would be pushed to Wednesday,
when the vote had been scheduled for the public meeting.

"Today the Commission took two actions significantly
advancing the president's goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband
by 2020,"said FCC spokesperson Tammy Sun in a statement. "These
actions will help meet skyrocketing consumer demand and promote private
investment, innovation, and competition, while unlocking billions of dollars of
value."

According to sources, the item requires Dish to use some of
its spectrum as an interference buffer for the H block, which Dish chairman
Charlie Ergen has said will adversely impact Dish's plans for a competitive
wireless service. Ergen made a personal pitch to that effect in meetings with
FCC commissioners and staffers, including offering to accept the so-called
guard band if the FCC would loosen restrictions on the rest of the spectrum,
but sources say that did not fly.

But Dish still applauded the step as being in the right
direction.

"The FCC has removed outdated regulations and granted
terrestrial flexibility for most of the AWS-4 band. We appreciate the hard work
and focus of the FCC and its staff throughout this process," said Jeff
Blum, Dish senior VP and deputy general counsel. "The Commission has taken
an important step toward facilitating wireless competition and innovation, and
fulfilling the goals of the National Broadband Plan. Following a more thorough
review of the order and its technical details, Dish will consider its strategic
options and the optimal approach to put this spectrum to use for the benefit of
consumers."

Those could include creating the new service, partnering
with someone -- like Sprint -- or eventually selling the now-more-valuable
spectrum.

Dish had initially sought an FCC waiver to use its AWS-4
spectrum, which it purchased out of bankruptcy from TerreStar and DBSD, for a
hybrid terrestrial-satellite broadcast service, but the FCC put that on hold
while it prepared the item loosening the satellite-only restrictions on the
entire band, which means the looser rules would convey to a new licensee going
forward, not just apply to Dish.

Related