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Dish Plans New Cellular Network

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Dish Networks' (DISH) primary business is providing satellite TV. But it's also looking to take some of that same spectrum and rollout a new cellular phone network.

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to allow Dish to use some of the frequencies it owns ("up to 40 MHz of underutilized satellite spectrum") to build a new cellular network ("including 4G/LTE"). That would put Dish in direct competition with Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T), Sprint (S) and T-Mobile.

Although the official announcement on the government Web site is somewhat vague, the agency told The Wall Street Journal that all five FCC members have voted on the rules to allow the move.

Under the plan, Dish will have to build at least 70% of this new network within six years and, as with all FCC broadcast licenses - from ham radio operators to television broadcasters - Dish will have to minimize interference with any adjacent frequency bands.

One interesting point is that Dish didn't really need the FCC's approval to create a new cellular network. The company could start its own cellular service at any time. But, because those frequencies were provisioned for satellite use, they would have to add a satellite communications circuit inside each handset - which would have almost doubled the price of each device.

The FCC is also asking the public to comment on proposed rules concerning the spectrum on either side of Dish's frequencies - technically known as the "H Block". Sprint has already expressed interest if and when that portion of the spectrum is made available at auction.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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