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Dish Gets FCC Query on Wireless Network After Missed Deadlines

Scott Moritz, Todd Shields
Sprint Corp Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Dish Network Corp. is being asked by federal regulators to provide details about its wireless network plans, a not-so-gentle reminder that the company has less than two years to use some of its $40 billion in airwaves or lose them.

The Federal Communications Commission wants specifics like what network equipment and chips Dish will use, which wireless frequencies it will operate on and what types of devices it plans to sell, according to a July 9 letter from the agency. Dish missed three earlier deadlines and faces an accelerated timeline to have a network built by March 2020, a year earlier than originally.

The prodding highlights the pressure Dish and its co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen are under to hang on to the airwaves that the company has accumulated and convince investors that there’s still a big pay off for that investment. Dish failed to make deals with wireless operators T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. that would have let Ergen combine rather build a new network.

Dish plans to build wireless system in two phases. The initial project, targeted for 2020, is a $1 billion so-called Internet of Things, or IoT network, that will allow connections between machines, devices and sensors. The second stage is a $10 billion fifth-generation, or 5G, voice and data network.

“We appreciated the opportunity to discuss with the FCC our progress to meet the buildout milestones,” Dish attorney Jeff Blum said in statement. “As requested, we will continue to update the FCC about the progress of our narrowband IoT buildout.”

The delays have agitated investors. Dish fell as much as 4.3 percent in New York. The stock was down 27 percent this year as of Tuesday.

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