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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 13, 2012

Dish Network Purchases Two Satellite Operators for Wireless Spectrum

By Narayan Bhat, TMCnet Contributor

U.S. satellite TV service provider Dish Network Corp. has bought two satellite operators in an aggressive attempt to compete successfully with rivals such as cable TV operators and telecom carriers.

Dish stated that it invested $3 billion and has acquired all the assets of DBSD North America, Inc. and TerreStar Networks (News - Alert), Inc, including their wireless spectrum which it wants to make use of for offering cellular service.

Englewood, Colo-based company, was badly in need of wireless spectrum as it was struggling to retain customers who were fast switching to telecom carriers or cable TV providers seeking both TV and Internet service in a single package.

The disadvantage with satellite companies is that they lack bandwidth to provide both TV and Internet service to more customers. Even though they provide, Internet speeds would be very slow.

Following the acquisition, Dish is likely to build a cellular network using wireless spectrum given to the companies it has now acquired. Though DBSD North America Inc. and TerreStar Networks Inc. are satellite operators, they have the license to operate ground-based services as a backup. That’s what made them the ideal choice for Dish.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the transfer of wireless licenses to Dish this month, but it deferred decisions on whether Dish could use the spectrum more broadly to offer broadband service that is primarily ground based, according to Associated Press.

As of now, smart phones and tablet computers cannot use the spectrum of Dish without the ability to access satellite signals as well. Dish has stated that it is working with FCC (News - Alert) to get the permission. Until then, DISH will initiate efforts to enhance the performance and capabilities of handsets that utilize the terrestrial and satellite links.

Analysts say Dish’s hopes could even be dashed as the FCC has recently rejected a similar proposal from LightSquared (News - Alert) after tests showed it would sometime jam personal-navigation and other GPS devices. Offering nearly 200 HD channels, DISH serves about 13.967 million satellite TV customers and is the third largest pay-TV service provider in the United States.

According to AP, Dish added a net 22,000 satellite TV subscribers in the last three months of 2011 after posting losses for most quarters in the past two years.


Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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