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Dish wins big on Lightsquared disaster

By PETER WHITE

Published: 17 February, 2012

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It's a big "I told you so" this week from us - not regarding the failure of Lightsquared to get clearance for its network via the FCC, over GPS interference - but over the sudden focus on Dish Network, and its LTE ready MSS spectrum. Back in May in our paid sister service Faultline, we explained that it would and should get its FCC ATC waiver and this would make it a central focus for a rival for AT&T and Verizon in US cellular.

This week the FCC dealt what is widely seen as the final death blow to LightSquared when it withdrew the waiver to use its spectrum for LTE because of interference concerns with GPS signals, but with it, it has crushed its own high hopes for a more competitive mobile broadband market in the US. This is likely to bring Dish more directly into play on the US spectrum chessboard and we would expect to see some moves soon, assuming Dish secures the FCC waiver to build an LTE-Advanced network.

Since the day of the announcement the Dish share price has been rising and it is almost at a year high, having caught up most of the ground it lost after successive defeats in court at the hands of TiVo and poor TV subscriber add-ons in the early part of last year.

Dish Network plans to build an LTE-Advanced system in the frequencies it acquired from TerreStar and DBSD (which are a safe distance from GPS). Dish is seeking a waiver similar to LightSquared's, to allow terrestrial services, and is locked in dispute with the FCC over coverage and timing targets. There is also speculation that it will form a sharing or even a merger deal with AT&T, which saw its own 4G plan thrown into disarray when its takeover of T-Mobile USA was blocked.

Back in May, Faultline published a prediction of how Dish would bring together its various new assets -Blockbuster, its TiVo license and its MSS spectrum - and coalesce them into some new direction. In a Q&A around the Dish results for the first quarter of 2011, chairman Charlie Ergen hardly laid out a clear plan, but many of the thoughts Faultline took away will now be more pertinent to the US market with LightSquared disabled.

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