By: Gigaom
Dish gets its 4G approval; Sprint gets its 4G auction
Dish finally has permission to become a full-fledged cellular network operator, though it remains to be seen whether it will actually become one. The FCC also set the wheels rolling for an auction next year of new 4G licenses that Sprint has been eyeing.

Everybody’s happy – well, sort of. After more than a year of lobbying the Federal Communications Commission, Dish Network has gotten approval to use its satellite spectrum for a terrestrial LTE network, paving the way for Dish to become a new mobile broadband carrier – or for Dish to make a windfall selling its newly 4G-ified licenses to the highest bidder.

Dish didn’t get everything it wanted though. While Dish wanted its satellite spectrum re-designated for mobile carrier use, it wanted to keep using satellite’s much higher transmission power, which ultimately would have allowed it to build a much more powerful network and boost the value of its spectrum.

Sprint LTE logoSprint, however, has designs on spectrum neighboring Dish’s 2 GHz licenses. It’s been waiting for the FCC to auction off licenses in those airwaves – known as the PCS H block – adding their capacity to its LTE network. Sprint claimed that Dish’s proposal would produce such a high-powered network that it would wash out any signals in the H block. Sprint asked for restrictions on Dish’s transmit power, and it appears to have gotten them.

We haven’t seen a final order, but an FCC spokeswoman said the commission has approved both Dish’s terrestrial network and a proposal that paves the way for an H-block auction next year. Both Dish and Sprint have put out statements saying they’re pleased with the results.

The question is now whether Dish actually plans to build a network or if it will just flip its spectrum. As you might expect, now that Dish has its 4G approval its stance on building or running a competing network appears to have become more fluid.

“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,” Dish SVP and senior counsel Jeff Blum said in a statement.

There are rumors bubbling up that Dish and Sprint will now put aside their differences and run a joint network, using Sprint’s infrastructure and Dish’s airwaves. Of course, Sprint is the subject of a lot of rumors these days. Reports are again surfacing that Sprint plans to buy out its WiMAX provider Clearwire before its takeover deal with Softbank closes.

Dish photo courtesy of (CC BY 2.0) Flickr user Dave Lindblom.

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