FCC Grants Waiver for DISH AWS-4 Plans

DISH Network Corporation received an early Christmas gift from the FCC in the form of a waiver to grant the company some flexibility to use 20 MHz of its Advanced Wireless Services-4 (AWS-4) spectrum at 2000-2020 MHz for uplink or downlink operations as well as a waiver of its final AWS-4 build-out milestone, extending the deadline from seven to eight years.

The FCC’s Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) granting waivers of FCC rules, is subject to DISH meeting two conditions: First, pursuant to commitments made in its waiver request, DISH must bid in the upcoming H Block auction “either directly or indirectly through an affiliated entity or designated entity, at least a net clearing price” equal to the aggregate reserve price set for that auction of $1.564 billion; and second, DISH must file its uplink or downlink election, which shall apply to all AWS-4 licenses, “as soon as commercially practicable but no later than 30 months after the release date of this Memorandum Opinion and Order.” If DISH fails to comply with either of the conditions, the waivers will automatically terminate.

If DISH elects to use the 2000-2020 MHz spectrum for downlink operations, the MO&O specifies technical parameters DISH must meet to avoid causing harmful interference to licensees of nearby spectrum bands. The parameters are similar to those established for other AWS and PCS downlink bands, including the AWS-1 downlink band.

In the MO&O the FCC states, “the central purposes of the Commission’s proceedings leading to the AWS-4 Report and Order have been to lay the foundation for more flexible use of this band, and to promote investment in new and innovative mobile broadband services by unleashing more spectrum for these critical services. We agree with AT&T that the DISH Petition 'falls squarely within the scope of the Commission’s highly successful flexible use policy.' Flexibility encourages research, innovation, and investment, spurs the development of new technologies and their deployment to customers, and overall encourages efficient use of spectrum. By affording licensees the flexibility to make fundamental choices about service offerings, taking into account market factors such as consumer demand, availability of technology, and competition, the Commission’s approach tends to result in efficient and highly-valued uses of spectrum. Typically, the Commission limits technical flexibility only where needed to prevent harmful interference to other users of the spectrum.”

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.