May 17, 2012 / 5:06 PM / in 6 years

Dish: FCC timeline for wireless network unrealistic

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dish Network Corp (DISH.O) told U.S. communications regulators on Thursday that their proposed timetable for Dish’s planned wireless network was unrealistic and carried too harsh a penalty for failing to meet requirements.

The second-largest satellite TV provider in the United States proposed that it have four years to reach an initial milestone, instead of the three years proposed by the Federal Communications Commission.

That initial phase would reach 60 million people under the Dish proposal, rather than the 30 percent of the U.S. population that the FCC proposed, roughly 90 million people.

Dish also urged the FCC to adopt more flexible sanctions for failing to meet buildout milestones, “rather than requiring a draconian outcome such as automatic license termination,” the company said in a filing with the regulator.

Dish is seeking to diversify its business beyond pay TV. The company spent more than $3 billion last year to buy spectrum from DBSD and TerreStar.

The FCC in March approved Dish’s license to acquire the spectrum, but denied the company’s request for a waiver to allow it to build a terrestrial wireless network.

Instead the agency opted to initiate a rule-making process, proposing a path for making the satellite airwaves that Dish acquired available for mobile broadband use.

“We’re optimistic that the FCC can complete its rulemaking by the end of the summer,” said Tom Cullen, Dish’s executive vice president.

Dish argued in its comments to the FCC that the buildout requirements and penalties in the proposed rulemaking were more stringent than rules adopted for all other terrestrial services.

Spectrum licensed to Deutsche Telekom AG’s (DTEGn.DE) T-Mobile USA has a 15-year buildout term, and Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc (T.N) each have 10 years to cover 75 percent of the population using certain airwaves that they hold, Dish said.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).

    The current FCC proposal would require Dish to deploy service to 70 percent of the population within seven years.

    Dish said that it understood the agency’s urgency to make additional airwaves available and could agree to an aggressive seven-year buildout if certain adjustments were made.

    “We’re prepared to help meet the challenge as soon as reasonable modifications to the rules are approved,” Cullen said in a statement.

    The company argued that its revised seven-year plan would give it time to build and test the network, upgrade service and billing systems and find partners to develop chipsets and devices to run on the network.

    Instead of automatic license termination as a penalty, the company advocated for case-by-case consideration of enforcement action such as monetary penalties.

    Dish said it is prepared to spend billions of dollars to deploy a cellular network utilizing Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, bringing another competitor to the wireless market.

    Reporting By Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn

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