Will the FCC Grant Dish Network’s Wish?

Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) Chairman Charlie Ergen has a valuable piece of spectrum that is burning a hole in his pocket.

The company has billions of dollars worth of spectrum in the 2 giga-hertz band that Ergen originally bought for satellite communications in 2008. But Dish Network now has other plans for the spectrum. In 2011, Dish petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to allow the company to use its 40 GHz spectrum for a ground-based cellphone network only, and the FCC has been deliberating since March of last year.

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While the ultimate decision of the commission is yet to come, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the agency will likely approve the request, but require Dish to limit its use of the spectrum to “protect against interference on a neighboring spectrum band.”

In an interview on November 15, Ergen said that such regulation “would be a game changer for us.” According to him, the limit would reduce Dish’s “uplink” spectrum, which transfers the signal from cellphones to towers, by 25 percent, hampering the company’s ability to compete with established networks like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ).

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