It’s easy to find people that don’t trust DISH Network’s Charlie Ergen, but it’s hard not to get titillated by some of the technology plays that he brings to Sprint and Clearwire. To Sprint, he brings a multimedia package – mobile and fixed video, voice, and data. Additionally, his company brings a fixed-broadband wireless play using spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, which would complement the spectrum holdings of both Sprint and Clearwire.
The week, DISH and nTelos Wireless, a rural wireless provider, announced the commencement of a fixed broadband wireless test in rural Virginia using LTE technology, with speeds ranging from 20 Mbps to more than 50 Mbps.
As part of the demonstration, two wireless tower test sites were activated in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Waynesboro and Afton, Va. BandRich ruggedized outdoor routers with built-in high-gain antennas were installed on the roofs of the homes to receive the signal. Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent provided equipment and assisted in the installation.
The final story has yet to be written of the DISH/Sprint/Clearwire/Softbank merger-palooza. But with a significant portion of households in rural America underserved by wireline broadband, a fixed wireless LTE solution just might find a home in the country, no matter who provides it.
This week’s blockbuster spectrum news was DISH Network’s proposal to purchase all of the Clearwire common shares at $3.30. Slightly more than the $2.97 per share offered by Clearwire’s half-owner Sprint Nextel, last December.
Sprint wasn’t buying it. In response to the DISH Proposal, Sprint stated in a letter to Clearwire that the DISH proposal is “illusory, inferior to the Sprint transaction and not viable because it cannot be implemented in light of Clearwire’s current legal and contractual obligations.”
The Wall Street Journal wasn’t buying it either, quoting analysts that ascribed many different ulterior motives to DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen’s negotiating tactics. While some said Ergen is looking to get Sprint to partner with DISH, others said he is acting out of revenge against Sprint for its attempt to block the FCC’s approval of DISH’s spectrum.
Charlie Ergen is a known for being a poker player that isn’t afraid to try to win with a bad hand, according to Clayton Funk, managing director, Media Venture Partners.
“[Ergen] can either sell his spectrum to Sprint or he can allow Sprint to lease his spectrum through a wholesale agreement,” Funk said. “Either way, it would be good for the tower industry because it would allow for more network deployment, with more antennas and lines on towers that utilize that spectrum.”
At the very least, DISH’s $3.30 offer may help the class action lawsuit of Crest Financial, Clearwire’s second largest shareholder, which accuses Clearwire of accepting too low of an offer at $2.97 per share.
“What Ergen will certainly achieve is to give Crest and Mount Kellett far more ammunition in their fight against the Sprint takeover, potentially tying up the proposed Sprint buyout for months,” wrote Tim Farrar, principal, Telecom, Media and Finance Associates, in a blog post.
A brief summary of the proposed deal. DISH would acquire 24 percent of Clearwire’s spectrum for $2.2 billion, with the option of an additional 2 megahertz. Also, Clearwire would provide DISH with the construction, operation, maintenance and management of a wireless network covering AWS-4 spectrum and new deployments of 2.5 GHz spectrum.