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Google seen sniffing over a Dish of mobile spectrum

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Google has been chatting to Dish about cooperatively launching a mobile phone network in the USA, using the same loophole LightSquared failed to exploit to build a national network.

It's not just Google that Dish is taking to, the TV company has been looking for a partner for some time and is open to discussions with anyone, but the Wall Street Journal reckons Google has been in discussions with Dish lately though even the paper admits they may yet come to nothing.

Dish certainly wants to roll out a mobile network, having seen LightSquared fail at the final fence in its attempt. Both companies own frequencies designated for satellite use, but in the USA such owners are also permitted to deploy ground stations in the same band, to fill in shadows and improve building penetration: a loophole LightSquared hoped to use and Dish plans to.

LightSquared got permission from the FCC to deploy such a ground network, but then lost it again when it was unable to appease the GPS industry who were spectrally next door. Dish doesn't have that problem, though it does have Sprint next door, and Sprint has asked the FCC to require Dish to shuffle 5 MHz up the dial away from them.

The FCC hasn't approved Dish's request for permission to build a ground network, saying in March that it would have to confer until the end of 2012, but without the GPS crowd complaining it's likely to give approval - so Dish is concentrating on ensuring the FCC ignores Sprint's request.

The bands Dish wants to use lie across the globally-standard 3G bands, but other than neighbouring Sprint they're perfectible usable and are now approved by the 3GPP (LTE recognised band number 23) but Dish will need partners to fund the building of the network.

LightSquared had a deal with Sprint, but now that Softbank is taking an interest and Sprint is buying up US Cellular customers and bandwidth, it's unlikely a similar deal will happen. AT&T might take a punt but has extensive plans of its own, so an outside partner like Google might be more interesting. Google certainly has the cash, but whether it has the inclination is another question entirely. ®

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