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Dish has been battling with the FCC and other carriers over the possibility of using its current satellite spectrum holdings for a terrestrial cellular network. The TV operator turned carrier has finally got full approval by the FCC to do just that today, following months of negotiation. Dish holds a good portion of spectrum -- about 40MHz -- in the AWS-4 band, which isn't exactly the "prime real estate" that other carriers hold, but is well within reason considering that T-Mobile and Sprint both operate portions of their network at even higher frequencies.

This is a bittersweet deal for Dish, however, as there are a few conditions put on the approval. Sprint, which was a big opponent of the deal, holds spectrum near AWS-4 and therefore the FCC put restrictions on how much of the spectrum Dish can operate on and at what power levels. This effectively lowers the amount of usable spectrum that Dish can end up operating on when it launches its network. Additionally, part of the deal will let the FCC have an auction for spectrum in the AWS-H Block, which is adjacent to Dish's holdings. Sprint is interested in owning this H Block spectrum, furthering issues between the companies.

Now that all of these regulatory hurdles are (somewhat) out of the way, the real fun can begin. Reports have been swirling about what Dish could eventually do with these spectrum holdings, including but not limited to rumors that Google could be a potential network partner. At this point nothing is solidified, and Dish is surely in talks with more than just one company to get its network started. Hopefully the end result will be a new operator that can take on the big four here in the U.S.

Source: FCC; Reuters; Ars Technica