A few months ago there were multiple reports of Google and Dish having formal talks about offering a wireless network that would rival Verizon and AT&T. Those talks can now fuel a bit more speculation as the FCC has granted approval to Dish to use its AWS-4 spectrum for 4G LTE data services.
Dish released a statement and is obviously pleased with the outcome.
“The FCC has removed outdated regulations and granted terrestrial flexibility for most of the AWS-4 band.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. 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.”
What should the satellite TV operator do now? Well that door is open and filled with options. The previous talks with Google seem like an obvious choice with Google supplying the phone hardware and technology. A network could be built for data only and their services like Google Voice would power traditional conversations. Google has long been rumored to be launching their own wireless service and at a very aggressive monthly price. Most of the talks fizzled out, but after buying Android there were internal documents that appeared to point to offering their own private network. A complete new build out with Dish would take years to complete and that leaves a lot of doubt as the first choice.
More recent reports have stated that Sprint and T-Mobile could have interest in the newly approved spectrum. Bloomberg reported that Sprint has already reached out to Dish in an attempt to work a partnership deal. The Sprint network would power the MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) service offered by Dish and the unused spectrum would now be Sprint’s for expansion. Many other small providers use the Sprint network to operate as an MVNO and it is a growing trend.
Blockbuster stores have also been brought up as a potential selling hub. The B&M stores could sell phones for the new provider like they currently do for existing carriers under the Blockbuster Mobile name.
Dish could opt to simply sell the new air waves to the highest bidder and come into most likely a large windfall of cash. Sprint has also shown interest in this avenue with expanding its new LTE network. The 3rd largest carrier in the U.S. is waiting for the FCC to auction off the 2GHz license and the new Dish spectrum neighbors this space. It would make sense for Sprint to grab as large of a chunk as it can.
For now Dish has a lot of power and decisions to make. Will they take a plunge into a new business, take a cash buyout or partner with an existing carrier? Hopefully we know sooner rather than later.