Dish denied extra spectrum by Supreme Court
July 5, 2023
By Chris Forrester
The US Supreme Court has decided not to examine an appeal application by Dish Network over the company’s pursuit of extra spectrum from the FCC’s 2014 AWS-3 (Advanced Wireless Services) auction.
A report from New Street Research stated: “The Supreme Court denied the […] petition by Dish […] effectively ending Dish’s effort to gain control of spectrum that was auctioned in 2014.”
The core of Dish’s would-be application are an outstanding $515 million in fines and 197 AWS-3 spectrum licences themselves worth around $3.3 billion.
Two bidding entities called Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless bought $13.3 billion worth of AWS-3 spectrum in the FCC’s 2014 auction. SNR and Northstar initially qualified as ‘designated entities’, which made them eligible for a 25 per cent discount intended for small businesses.
However, as the auction wrapped the FCC ruled that Northstar and SNR Wireless were “too close” to Dish financially to get the 25 per cent discount on offer and were not “small businesses”.
Dish paid the fine and gave up the awarded spectrum, and has been attempting to get the cash and the spectrum back for the past 9 years.
New Street says that Dish has now effectively run out of legal options. The Court’s denial of the further appeal means the 197 AWS-3 spectrum licences at issue will revert back to the FCC – and can be sold.
This could pave the way for other operators – such as T-Mobile or Verizon – to eventually acquire the licences through another auction.
“This raises the prospects of a re-auction of spectrum in the not-too-distant future,” according to New Street analysts. New Street adds that Dish has now completed the roll-out of its 5G service using its other spectrum allocations, and in any case won’t miss what it never had – except for the $550 million.