Not usually a topic of conversation in mobile broadband, Dish has started coming up quite a bit lately because it owns a significant amount of high-quality spectrum — spectrum that could be used to build out a new network. Indeed, that's exactly what it has says it wants to do in the 2GHz band, erecting an LTE-Advanced network from scratch that would be offered at retail — to end customers, that is — versus LightSquared, which plans to wholesale its bandwidth to other carriers that need it (assuming it's ever able to get FCC approval). There's been quite a bit of speculation that Dish's ambitions could ultimately end up getting it hitched with either T-Mobile or AT&T, both of which claim to need additional spectrum in the long term; in fact, some of that speculation has come from Dish itself.
In the process of getting FCC approval to proceed with its plans, Dish has run into resistance from none other than AT&T, which is demanding that the feds place "similar build out requirements" on Dish that were required of LightSquared, arguing that the two are pursuing similar strategies — a marriage of satellite and terrestrial spectrum. In brief, that means that Dish would be required to cover 100 million people within 33 months, ultimately scaling up to 260 million within 69 months.
Dish has just filed a response to AT&T's demands this week, saying that they'd "thwart" Dish's efforts for several reasons; among them, that the proposed build out guidelines are unreasonable considering that Dish wants to launch on LTE-Advanced, a technology that no other American carrier has committed to upgrading to prior to 2013. Dish also argues that creating a retail network is more work than creating a wholesale one like LightSquared's — there are more pieces that need to be put in place to support customers directly. AT&T is also voicing concerns about interference on Dish's 700MHz holdings, but Dish says that it hasn't even committed to using 700MHz spectrum yet; the current request is strictly on the 2GHz band.
Why would AT&T be throwing a fit here? It seems plausible that they're trying to make the notion of going it alone on a new mobile network as unappealing or difficult as possible — that'd increase the likelihood that Dish would choose to either sell off its spectrum or partner up with an existing player like AT&T. There's no word on how the FCC's leaning yet, but a nationwide Dish LTE-Advanced network could certainly mix things up in the competitive wireless landscape.