It probably remains literally true that Charlie Ergen, Dish Network chairman (and soon to be CEO, again) has no firm idea of what he will do with his Long Term Evolution spectrum holdings.
On its most recent quarterly earnings call, Ergen seemed to suggest Dish Network has more time than most believe. “You have up to 2020 to meet your milestone of building I think is 70 percent of the country,” Ergen said.
In other words, Dish might miss the first deadline, which is building out facilities reaching 40 percent of the potential U.S. market, and aim for the 70 percent requirement by 2020. That would give Dish Network more time to structure either an operating role, or sell the spectrum to another operator who could use the spectrum nearly immediately.
Is Dish amenable to selling some of its spectrum–particularly the 700-MHz holdings? Yes, he says. Could he sell all the spectrum? Yes. Might Dish Network build a wholesale business? Yes. “There are probably a dozen options,” said Ergen.
“We don’t have preconceived notions of what we are going to do other than ideally as we said on virtually every call we’ve had the last five years, our dream would be to enter the marketplace and provide meaningful competition,” said Ergen.
In Europe, Dish Network recently acquired Solaris Mobile, a Dublin-based wholesale provider of satellite backhaul to support mobile operations, as well as operate terrestrial mobile operations.
In part, wholesale backhaul is one tack Dish Network could take, building a wholesale LTE network selling capacity to third parties.
Wholesale spectrum is not an approach any of the four national service providers ever have embraced, so the value of that model is untested.