On Friday, July 26, 2019, DISH sent a letter to the Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“Bureau”) outlining its plans to enter the wireless market as a new nationwide facilities-based provider, following the announcement of the Department of Justice’s approval of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. In addition to its anticipated acquisition of Boost Mobile and other assets, DISH outlines its proposed modified deadlines, commitments, and conditions in Attachment A that would, in its own words, align its deployment plans with the expected finalization of 5G standard and equipment. In short, DISH is asking the Commission to extend its license construction deadlines to June 2023. This is in connection with the divestitures DISH will be receiving pursuant to the Department of Justice settlement in connection with the Sprint/TMO transaction (if such transaction closes).
DISH requests that the Commission extend the construction timelines associated with its AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block, and AWS H Block licenses, and that DISH is willing to accept the terms of conditions, including the voluntary contributions (up to $2.2 billion) and potential license forfeitures for failure to meet certain commitments. DISH will also consent to the Commission including a “5G Broadband Service” obligation as a special condition of its 600 MHz, AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block, and AWS H Block licenses, and will consent to the sale and leasing restrictions for its 600 MHz and AWS-4 licenses.
DISH maintains that these commitments will ensure that: 1) DISH’s nationwide 5G deployment meets certain specifications; 2) DISH deploys a 5G Broadband Service on its AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block, and AWS H Block spectrum licenses on an aggressive schedule; 3) DISH deploys a 5G Broadband Service on its 600 MHz spectrum license on an accelerated timeline; and 4) DISH adheres to certain restrictions on its ability to sell or lease network capacity on its AWS-4 and 600 MHz spectrum.
Further, DISH argues that adjusting these timelines is in the public interest because it will allow DISH to deploy all of its spectrum at the same time to provide a better overall 5G service at a lower cost and on a more efficient deployment schedule.
The specific commitments are as follows:
Nationwide 5G Broadband Commitment – DISH will commit that by June 14, 2023, it will deploy a nationwide 5G network using DISH’s spectrum with:
- At least 70% of the US population having access to download speeds equal to or greater than 35 Mbps, as verified by a drive test;
- At least 15,000 5G sites deployed; and
- At least 30 MHz of DISH’s downlink 5G spectrum averaged over all DISH 5G sites deployed nationwide.
Commitment to Deploy 5G Broadband Service AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block, and AWS H Block Spectrum Licenses – DISH notes that its AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block, and AWS H Block spectrum licenses are currently subject to construction deadlines of March 7 2020 (AWS-4 & 700 MHz E) and April 29, 2022 (for AWS H Block), and subject to “flexible use” policies. To promote deployment goals, DISH offers to voluntarily waive its flexible use rights, and commit to deploy 5G Broadband Service using its AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block, and AWS H Block spectrum licenses. Specifically, it consents to include a 5G Broadband Service obligation as a special condition of each such license, and commits to deploy by the following deadlines:
- DISH 5G Broadband Service to at least 20% of the US population by 2022 for AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block and AWS H Block licenses by no later than June 14, 2022.
- DISH 5G Broadband Service to at least 70% of the US population by 2022 for AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block and AWS H Block licenses by no later than June 14, 2023.
Commitment to Deploy 5G Broadband Service on 600 MHz Spectrum Licenses on an Accelerated Timeline – DISH currently holds 486 license in the 600 MHz band, with at least one license in each of the 416 PEAs, subject to flexible use policies and June 14, 2027 and June 14, 2029 construction deadlines. DISH will commit to deploy 5G service on each of its 600 MHz licenses four years earlier than required, and will consent to including a 5G service obligation as a special condition of the licenses if granted the deadline extensions. Specifically, DISH will commit to meet the following deadlines:
- Using the 600 MHz licenses, offer 5G Service to at least 70% of the population no later than June 14, 2023.
- Using the 600 MHz licenses, offer 5G Broadband Service to at least 75% of the population in each PEA no later than June 14, 2025.
Restrictions on Sale of Licenses and Leasing Capacity – DISH will consent not to sell its AWS-4 and 600 MHz spectrum for six years without prior DOJ and FCC approval (unless such sale is part of DISH selling itself, in that case, the purchaser shall be subject to the commitments and penalties unless DOJ and FCC decide otherwise). DISH will also, for six years, not to lease, directly or indirectly, to any of the three largest wireless providers, or any combination thereof, traffic accounting for more than 35% of the network capacity on its 5G network without prior FCC approval, to become effective on the date of an FCC order effectuating Attachment A.
Verification and Enforcement – DISH consents to rigorous verification and enforcement procedures, with sever financial contributions and potential license forfeitures for failure to meet the commitments. DISH will be required to file detailed status reports with the Commission and will be subject to verification using drive tests to ensure download speeds comply with the 35 Mbps metric, and will be required to submit detailed coverage maps and data to demonstrate compliance with the June 2023 milestones.
Failure to meet these commitments will subject DISH to up to $2.2 billion in voluntary contributions and potential license forfeitures, with the contributions calculated separately for each commitment not met.
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