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Dish Seeks Waiver for Hybrid Terrestrial-Satellite Broadband Service

Dish Network
Monday asked the FCC to consolidate the transfer of satellite licenses that
came with Dish's purchase of TerreStar and DBSD out of bankruptcy earlier in
2011 and -- citing commission precedent -- asked for a waiver of the FCC's
integrated service requirement so it can use the combined spectrum to
offer terrestrial-only receivers as part of its planned hybrid
terrestrial-satellite broadband service.

The FCC granted
LightSquared a waiver for its hybrid broadband service in the wake of a
National Broadband Plan conclusion that "gating" criteria, such as
the integrated service mandate, have made it difficult to achieve the
Commission's goals of a more efficient and flexible use of spectrum.

LightSquared, Dish wants to be able to provide both the hybrid satellite-terrestrial
receivers, as well as terrestrial-only to those who do not want the satellite
function. "Allowing TerreStar and Dish to provide single-mode terrestrial
terminals to customers who have no need for satellite functions will achieve
significant public benefits, and will do so by better serving the important,
underlying policy," Dish told the FCC in its application, that policy goal
being to promote broadband deployment.

In July, a judge
approved Dish's purchase of TerreStar out of bankruptcy.
Dish wants the commission to combine the new request with an earlier one for
DBSD's S-Band licenses. Dish plans to combine the license to provide an
integrated mobile, portable and fixed broadband network under a newly-created
subsidiary, Gamma. It promises the FCC that if it gets the go-ahead, Dish will
promise to meet build-out deadlines and provide rural service. Bridging the
rural-digital divide is one of the FCC's public interest goals.

operators have long coveted the bundled service offerings of video and fixed
broadband that have turned cable operators into some of the nation's largest
ISPs. Dish says it wants to be a check on the market power of mobile providers
present and future. "This transaction represents an important first step
in obtaining spectrum necessary to establish Dish as a viable provider of
mobile broadband services. Although still modest in comparison to the holdings
of many incumbent mobile broadband providers, the spectrum assignments
contemplated by the TerreStar and DBSD transactions, taken together, provide an
essential foundation for Dish's ability to compete against them," the
company said in its filing.

That would
include LightSquared. Dish points out that LightSquared will have 59 MHz of
spectrum, while combining its DBSD and TerreStar spectrum would only give it 40
MHz, allowing it to compete "to some extent" with incumbents.

Dish said
combining the applications and providing the waiver would allow it to deliver
the kind of 4G LTE mobile broadband service the Obama Administration is
promoting. But Dish wanted to make sure the FCC did not take its argument for
providing more competition as any evidence that an AT&T-T-Mobile combo
would be any less of a threat to competition.

"To be sure,
these benefits will be no panacea for all of the ills afflicting the
increasingly concentrated CMRS [Commercial Mobile Radio Service] market today,
and particularly for the problems that the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile
combination," it said.

One problem the Dish
service would not run into is interference with GPS service. That is an issue that has
delayed LightSquared's rollout of its service.
GPS interference is not an issue with the S-band, a Dish spokesman points out.

But unlike
LightSquared, which is offering a wholesale service that would be offered to Dish's
cable competitors, among others, Dish's network will be a branded offering to
its subscribers, the Dish spokesman confirmed.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.