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EchoStar's Poker Face

The big satellite outfit won't make a deal till it sees the whites of its eyes.
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Chairman Charlie Ergen sees more competition ahead in communications land, but he indicated he won't do any deals till he sees the right one.

Speaking on his satellite company's quarterly earnings call, Ergen stressed the value customer retention amid mounting competition from rivals ranging from





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. Along with satellite peer



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, all the hard hitters are now rushing to offer the so-called triple threat of bundled telephony, broadband and video services.

The dilemma for Ergen, whose company's stock hasn't budged now for half a decade, is that without partnering with the likes of


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on some services, which it currently does, the company can only provide customers with video.

When AT&T hooked up with



last week, speculation that EchoStar might shop itself around intensified. But on Wednesday, Ergen was pokerfaced on such prospects.

"While we expect to continue to pursue opportunities to bundle our Dish Network satellite television service with the voice and data services of AT&T and other telecommunications providers, AT&T has begun deployment of fiber-optic networks that will allow it to offer video services directly to millions of homes as early as the second half of 2006," EchoStar said in its annual report filed with regulators.

On a possible hookup with competitor DirecTV to create a terrestrial wireless broadband network, Ergen said, "We continue to look at that. He added there is a compelling case for doing it in a standardized way. Ergen said it may make more strategic sense to do it for 30 million subscribers than for a smaller number.

Ergen noted that he doesn't have a specific time frame for such developments, saying he's "keen on that idea if it makes sense, but we're not going to draw an inside straight" -- a reference to a poker hand that's missing an essential card.

While promoting his company's HD and VOD offerings, plus the superior video delivery of satellite, Ergen said, "One of the things I learnt playing poker is I might fold 200 times until I get a good hand and then I'll bet the pot."