Canada ruling pushes Dish's LTE plan forward

Though the satellite operator is still waiting for FCC approval, its win in Canada points to a new type of mobile network

The Canadian government has approved the transfer of satellite spectrum to Dish Network, putting the company just one major ruling away from building a land-based 4G mobile data network on the frequencies.

However, the decision Dish is still awaiting, from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is by no means a sure thing. That agency, which was already grappling with LightSquared's controversial satellite-to-4G plan when it took up Dish's request last year, would need to grant Dish an important waiver before the company could complete its acquisition of spectrum from bankrupt satellite operators TerreStar and DBSD.

Gamma Acquisition, a Dish subsidiary, agreed in March 2011 to acquire DBSD for about US$325 million. In July, a bankruptcy court cleared Gamma's deal to acquire TerreStar for $1.375 billion. Dish announced in August that it planned to build a hybrid mobile data network using satellites and LTE-Advanced, a version of the popular Long-Term Evolution technology that will have new features for greater efficiency and other improvements.

Dish is seeking a waiver from the FCC that would allow it to offer LTE service by itself, which would free the company from having to sell heavier, more expensive phones that have satellite as well as 4G capability.

Industry Canada, the agency overseeing Dish's proposed transactions in that country, has approved the transfer of Canadian spectrum licenses to Dish from TerreStar and DBSD, Dish said in a statement on Tuesday. The agency found that the deal would be in the public interest because it would make more wireless capacity available.

On Tuesday, Dish said it is ready to close both acquisitions if the FCC signs off on the deals and the waivers that would be needed to operate its planned network.

LightSquared also wants to operate a 4G network in former satellite spectrum, on a band that is adjacent to the frequencies used by GPS. It has been granted the same type of waiver that Dish is seeking, but only on the condition that interference between its network and GPS be resolved first.

Dish is not expected to face the same type of interference issues because the spectrum it is acquiring is not near to the GPS band.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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