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Dish Teams With Qualcomm On Satellite Broadband Chip

Dish Network, trying to show it's serious about entering the wireless broadband business to persuade the FCC to change spectrum-licensing rules, announced a joint venture with Qualcomm to develop a chipset for mobile handsets that work in both terrestrial and satellite mode.

Dish is not disclosing the specific dollar amount it is investing in the venture "other than to say millions of dollars," spokesman Aaron Johnson said.

Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission declined Dish's request for a waiver of commission rules to allow the operator to use 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz/AWS-4 band for a terrestrial wireless broadband service in addition to the satellite and ancillary terrestrial communications the company is already licensed to provide. Instead, the FCC opened a separate docket on the proposed rule change.

The FCC closed the comment period on the proposed rule change June 1. The commission had previously approved Dish's $3 billion purchases of mobile satellite spectrum from two bankrupt entities, DBSD North America and TerreStar.

"For Dish to be competitive in the wireless broadband space, it is critical that we are able to offer terrestrial broadband services to consumers," Dish executive vice president Tom Cullen said in a statement. "In addition, we see opportunities to serve specialized markets across the nation with satellite communications capability."

According to Dish, its work with Qualcomm will enable the development of mobile handsets and devices that can operate in both terrestrial and satellite modes in the 2 GHz/AWS-4 band. Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 3G/LTE dual-mode modem chip will incorporate a new 3G-based interface technology for satellite-based communications referred to as Enhanced Geostationary Air Link (EGAL).

According to Cullen, "With the [FCC] rulemaking still underway, the Qualcomm development funding is a risk-based investment, yet it is important for us to accelerate a long-term path to developing both the satellite and ground-based mobile markets. The tailoring of this chipset to allow both modes of operation will give Dish the ability to support truly ubiquitous connectivity across the nation."

-- John Eggerton contributed to this report.