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FCC proposals would let Dish build a 4G network, make 700MHz more useful

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Two important proposals came out of an FCC meeting this morning, both of which have the potential for sweeping effects on broadband wireless in the US in the coming years. First off, Dish's intention to start using 2GHz satellite spectrum for terrestrial cellular service is off to a strong start — it seems that the feds have made an initial push to get behind the conversion, which would move it from MSS (Mobile Satellite Service) to AWS (Advanced Wireless Service). That's excellent news for Dish, and potentially a blow to AT&T, which appeared as though it may have been trying to acquire the spectrum by miring the band in red tape.

Next up, the FCC has started to move on a longstanding effort to require some manner of 700MHz interoperability. As it stands today, carriers that operate in the 700MHz band — AT&T, Verizon, and others — actually own licenses in one of several different "blocks," and technical concerns around interference have prevented efforts to require that 700MHz devices be interoperable between blocks. That's a big concern for smaller and rural carriers, which have voiced complaints that a lack of interoperability requirements would effectively lock them out of hardware commissioned by the larger players like AT&T — they simply don't have the buying power to get OEMs to create devices that work specifically on their own blocks.

This is far from law at this point, and AT&T continues to make it clear that it's against interoperability until the technical issues are resolved. Obviously, it's got a vested interest in keeping other players out of the market — and in AT&T's position, it doesn't need interoperability to deploy 700MHz devices the same way others do.

We'll continue to follow both proposals as they snake their way through Washington.