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Dish goes for jugular on S-Band with Terrestar bid

Dish Networks is favorite to win the assets of bankrupt MSS player TerreStar Networks after it had is all cash offer of $1

By PETER WHITE

Published: 16 June, 2011

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Dish Networks is favorite to win the assets of bankrupt MSS player TerreStar Networks after it had is all cash offer of $1.375 billion lead the bidding prior to a full bankruptcy auction. This was revealed in court papers filed this week. It is seen as a stalking horse bid, the highest first bid favored by the court, high enough to satisfy the court that the creditors would get a good enough deal if it went ahead. This is now in place until a final auction is held on June 30, with this as the lowest possible bid.

If this resulted in Dish winning the subsequent auction it would be the second 20 GHz of S-Band it holds, having bought the assets of DBSD, once part of ICO Communications, for similar spectrum last year.

The stalking horse bid was snatched from under the nose of a collection of the debt-holders, MetroPCS and Harbinger, who was acting for its investment Lightsquared.

Lightsquared is currently operating under the shadow of reports that say its L-Band spectrum LTE system interferes with GPS signaling in 1.6GHz, and it is desperate to announce at least a subsidiary strategy in the S-Band MSS spectrum, up at 2 GHz. If Dish wins this spectrum, it will have to beat a path to Dish’s door and accept its terms if it wants to have access to any S-Band spectrum.

Currently there is no answer yet established over the GPS Working Group’s report to the FCC that says LTE testing demonstrated widespread interference with GPS. If that report is genuinely negative Lightsquared will either need to vacate part of its spectrum, lower its EIRP or come up with some other technical solution to the interference problem in order for its wholesale plans to go ahead.

The offer from Dish was carefully calculated at $1.375 billion adding up to enough to pay off all secured debt leaving $90 million to pay out to the $200 million in unsecured creditors. Shareholders would, of course, not get anything, as is customary in bankruptcies of this type, which would leave LightSquared losing its 12% holding and most of its unsecured debt notes it has acquired.

When Charlie Ergen, just prior to stepping back from the CEO role at Dish Networks, talked a few weeks back about his strategy to pull together the disparate strands of his empire, he likened it to an episode of Seinfeld the legendary US comedy show. “It will all come together in the last minute,” he said.

On the one hand he knows that US consumers will eventually cut the cord from his main business, pay TV, and he is one of the experts in running satellites and set top businesses, and at the same time has these key spectrum assets and has spent $1 billion with DBSD and may spend another $1.4 billion to land the Terrestar spectrum.

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