Dish needs more time to build LTE-Advanced network
Argues against AT&T's coverage proposals, saying it plans a retail, not wholesale, service, and needs to wait until 2015 for devices
Published: 6 February, 2012
The pundits may be voting for a Dish-AT&T shotgun marriage, but if it happens, it could be a stormy one, with the two operators taking increasingly hostile stances as the FCC debates Dish's LTE plans.
The satellite-TV giant is seeking a waiver, similar to that granted to LightSquared, to allow it to operate terrestrial-only 4G services in its mobile satellite (MSS) spectrum, acquired last year from bankrupt MSS players TerreStar and DBSD North America. Dish has hit back against AT&T's proposal that it should match the coverage targets set for LightSquared, saying the timescales would be impossible since it aims to move directly to LTE-Advanced, an upcoming standard which promises greater spectral efficiencies, but will not have a full ecosystem for another three years, according to Dish.
Dish also made it clear, in its rebuttal to AT&T's filings, that it plans to launch a retail mobile broadband offering, rather than a wholesale-only plan like LightSquared's. That may disappoint parties which had hoped that Dish could fill the gap which may be left in the US 4G competitive landscape, should LightSquared fail because of problems of GPS interference from its proposed LTE network. Dish's S-band MSS spectrum in 2GHz is farther away from GPS bands so should not have similar problems.
Sprint has already supported Dish's proposals and urged the FCC to approve the spectrum transfer and waiver requests. But AT&T argued last week that Dish should be held to the same terrestrial build-out targets that would be imposed on LightSquared should it get the green light - at least 100m POPs within 33 months, 145m POPs within 45 months and 260m within 69 months.
But Dish responded: "A new, next generation LTE-Advanced retail network simply cannot be viably built in the S-Band at the pace AT&T suggests." It said it needs to wait for the new standards to be completed and suitable equipment and devices to come to market. "Building a network before LTE-Advanced devices are widely available would necessitate the use of an earlier standard, followed by a migration to LTE-Advanced once network and consumer devices are available," Dish wrote. "Such a requirement would needlessly trigger backward compatibility and network modernization issues and costs for Dish's proposed network." It does not foresee the start of a major build-out until 2015.
It also argues that building a retail, rather than wholesale, system will take more time. "Building a retail service from the ground up takes time and careful planning. Among other things, putting a new service together will require Dish to lease tower space across the nation, develop devices in conjunction with consumer electronics manufacturers, devise competitive rate plans, extend its brand identity, expand its national retail presence, upgrade its nationwide customer support/billing system, and maintain a competitive position in device and service offerings as customer expectations and demands evolve," the firm wrote in its submission. "At every step, a new retail service will face competitive pressure from incumbents with more experience and possibly a stranglehold on tower sites and other resources."
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