Dish seeks extension for purchase of T-Mobile’s low-band spectrum


Dish Network and T-Mobile have jointly asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reallocate the 800MHz spectrum, but Dish wants more time to pay for it

This week, Dish has confirmed to the FCC that it intends to purchase spectrum in the 800MHz band from T-Mobile, saying that it will play a key role in accelerating their 5G network coverage.

“As Dish continues to deploy and increase coverage with this first-of-its-kind network, it will expand the availability of competitive services offered to both consumer and business customers,” said Dish in the filing. “The 800MHz spectrum licenses contemplated by this transaction will substantially enhance Dish’s ability to do so.”

The purchase relates to the Sprint–T-Mobile merger back in 2020, with Dish having agreed to build out its own 5G network and become a national mobile operator as part of the deal to appease regulatory authorities. As part of this process, the mobile newcomer was given the option to pay T-Mobile $3.59 billion for a 13.5MHz block of nationwide spectrum in the 800MHz band.

If Dish instead decided not purchase these spectrum licences from T-Mobile, it will owe the latter $72 million.

While unable to offer the same level of 5G performance as mid-band (C-band) spectrum, this low-band spectrum was nonetheless seen as invaluable for rolling out services due to its long-range.

The prearranged deadline for Dish to make its decision on the spectrum passed earlier this year, with the two companies locked in negotiations for many months.

Now, the filing from both Dish and T-Mobile to the FCC indicates that the spectrum purchase will indeed go ahead, though the exact financial details of the deal have not been revealed.

However, there is a catch: Dish is asking the US government that it be given ten more months to make the requisite payments to T-Mobile.

The company argues that the global economic downturn has made paying for the spectrum more difficult than anticipated.

“The dramatic increase in interest rates has made it significantly more expensive for Dish to finance a purchase of the 800MHz Spectrum Licenses, rendering its ability to responsibly do so within the timeline provided by the Final Judgment substantially more difficult than Dish – or other parties to the Final Judgment – ever could have anticipated,” Dish told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Indeed, Dish’s finances have been strained for some time, with the company currently carrying around $21 billion in debt.

The company recently announced that it would merge with its previous parent company EchoStar, in a move largely seen as an effort to bolster the company’s balance sheet.

T-Mobile has not said whether it will oppose the requested extension.

How will the growth of Dish’s 5G network impact the US wireless market? Join the operators in discussion at Connected America 2024 live in Dallas, Texas

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