There is competition for T-Mobile’s 800MHz spectrum besides option holder Dish

If you’ve been following the story, you know that Dish Network has an option to buy low-band 800MHz spectrum from T-Mobile. The latter was told by the FCC to get rid of the spectrum in exchange for regulatory approval of the carrier’s merger with Sprint. Most of the low-band spectrum used by T-Mobile is the 600MHz airwaves that are deployed across the country for its nationwide 5G network. That’s because low-band spectrum travels longer distances than mid or high-band spectrum although it delivers slower download speeds than the other bands.
And now it appears that there is another player in this game. Per Fierce Wireless, a research report from New Street Research (NSR) says that engineering and consulting company Burns & McDonnell (B&M) has asked the court to participate in the proceedings involving Dish. NSR still expects the court to give Dish the additional time it is asking for. Analyst Blair Levin told clients that B&M is probably representing the interests of a group of electric utility firms that use spectrum. Many also are clients of B&M.

Levin also noted that the utilities are working with Anterix; this is the company that describes itself as the largest holder of licenses in the 900MHz band. The Chairman is Nextel co-founder Morgan O’Brien. The current holdings of the telecommunications service company, which delivers private broadband to utilities, don’t include any nationwide spectrum. As a result, Anterix might also be interested in the 800MHz spectrum.

Meanwhile, Anterix told Fierce Wireless, “We continue to stay close to this and other spectrum expansion opportunities, including talking to the relevant parties to evaluate anything that could be potentially accretive. We clearly know this spectrum band well, as we put it together at Nextel, piece by piece over decades.” Sprint acquired Nextel in 2005 and that 800MHz spectrum ended up in T-Mobile’s hands after its acquisition of Sprint.

B&M’s entry in the court proceedings gives the court another option to choose if it decides not to award the extension to Dish. But it leaves a tough decision for the Department of Justice. NSR’s Levin says that the DOJ can “double down” on its bet making Dish the fourth major U.S. wireless competitor, or continue its tradition of not favoring a modification (in this case the extension Dish is asking for) in a Final Judgment involving a merger. Still, the decision whether to grant Dish the extension will be up to the court.