Chairman Charles Ergen said that his company has inked a deal with Qualcomm for chipsets to support devices running on its LTE Advanced network, and that Dish is in
the hunt for more partnerships.
In a rare interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ergen said that Dish is also speaking with handset makers
and backhaul providers to support Dish's putative wireless network, reiterating comments the company had made in the past
to the FCC. Ergen said that "obvious" carrier partners include Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, which might be able to tap into Dish's 2 GHz MSS spectrum.
Sprint did not comment
on Dish specifically but said it is "open to opportunities with spectrum holders who can't or don't want to build a network
for their spectrum," and T-Mobile declined to comment, according to the Journal.
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Ergen seems to be fairly
sanguine about Dish's wireless ambitions, despite uncertainty over whether the FCC will grant Dish a waiver that would allow
it to sell terrestrial-only devices, which Dish has argued is essential to its business plan. Ergen said he thinks there's
an 80 percent chance Dish will get the waiver (the FCC's proceeding on MSS spectrum rules is still open). However, he said
Dish will not overreach with its plans.
"We're not going to do something that we can't achieve," he said. "It goes
back to playing blackjack: If we have a 51 percent chance of doing it, then we are going to move ahead. If we have a 49 percent
chance of being successful, we're not."
Ergen also dismissed the idea that the company will flip its 40 MHz of S-Band spectrum to
another carrier for a profit, though analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein estimate the spectrum, if sold, could be worth about
$8 billion, or 67 percent of Dish's current $12 billion market value.
Dish said in a filing to the FCC last month that it will not be
able to launch its proposed LTE Advanced network using its spectrum until 2016 or later. This is about 12 months longer than
the FCC's current proposed buildout schedule, which requires Dish to launch its network in three years covering 30 percent
of the U.S. population.
However, Dish has indicated that when it does launch its network, it will cover 60 percent of the U.S. population.
In a recent filing to
the FCC, Dish provided details of its deployment plans. The company said that it will take at least 48 months from the time
the 3rd Generation Partnership Project finalizes the S-Band specifications for LTE Advanced for Dish to launch its network.
is not expected to finalize those specs until December, which means that Dish will not launch its network until at least December
2016 or later.