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Dish will sell spectrum if it fails to find partner

Insists its bid for Clearwire is better for shareholders than Sprint's, and it cannot go it alone in LTE market


Published: 12 February, 2013

READ MORE: Spectrum | US | LTE

Dish Network continues to insist that its bid for Clearwire is a serious offer, but concedes it will put up the 'for sale' sign over its mobile satellite spectrum should it fail to find a partner.

Dish's chairman Charlie Ergen told the AllThingsD conference that the $3.30 bid for Clearwire - which trumped Sprint's of $2.97 - was not "illusory" and that it was a better option for the broadband wireless company's shareholders than Sprint's. "Sprint will have to do more to keep us out," he said, though with the CDMA operator holding over half Clearwire's shares, a counterbid was always going to be a complicated affair - hence speculation that it was really a tactic to pressurize Sprint into partnering with Dish.

Ergen admitted that going it alone, for its planned LTE-Advanced build-out in its mobile satellite spectrum, was unrealistic. That was "probably outside of the grasp of reality", he said, and agreed that if he did not find another operator as a partner, Dish would "admit we failed and try a new approach ... We would hang a 'for sale' sign on the spectrum."

Clearwire has indicated that it still favors Sprint's offer but is considering both, though it is "severely limited by its current contractual arrangements" to its majority stakeholder. Dish may well hope for some form of partnership with Sprint/Clearwire and its future majority owner Softbank of Japan, though there may be other alliances to consider before it puts its frequencies on the market - it previously failed in wooing MetroPCS, which is being acquired by T-Mobile, but has also been linked to TMo itself and to Google.

A trademark application filed by Dish last week requested the brand name 'Racecar' for a wireless broadband service, which would offer "wireless telephony and wireless broadband communications services for the transmission of voice, data, graphics and video; wireless broadband communication services; providing internet access".

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