Tag Archives: DISH

DISH has spectrum for urban people and rural land, but maybe not for rural Californians

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Dish aws3 spectrum per allnet insights and analytics via fiercewireless

Analysis done by Allnet Insights & Analytics for FierceWireless raises doubts about whether the settlement reached by the federal justice department with T-Mobile, Sprint and their new partner, DISH, will make a meaningful difference in rural California. The question is whether DISH has enough of the right kind of spectrum to offer the same kind of fast, high capacity broadband service it might in urban areas to California’s particular kind of rural communities.

The analysis and accompanying maps, as presented in an excellent article by Monics Alleven, “suggest DISH owns a lot of spectrum”. But it’s not evenly spread across California’s land area…

Allnet Insights President Brian Goemmer said he has typically focused on Dish’s spectrum holdings in major markets, and was surprised that Dish’s AWS–3 spectrum is fairly limited in rural areas. Based on his assessment, coverage is going to be Dish’s big challenge. There’s a big difference between covering all of the U.S. population versus having good enough coverage to take rural customers from AT&T and Verizon.

AWS–3 spectrum is a grab bag of frequencies that the FCC auctioned off beginning in 2014. It’s what’s known as mid-band spectrum, in the 1.7 GHz and 2.1 GHz ranges. Those bands are the workhorses of the mobile telecommunications world, with a good balance of total capacity, and propagation distance and penetration.

Those bands are particularly important in many parts of rural California, such as the Salinas and San Joaquin valleys, where people live in densely populated small (by Californian standards) communities. Low-band spectrum, which is typically thought of as a rural solution, is good at serving wide areas with low density populations, but won’t be as effective in what are for all practical purposes mini-urban communities in the middle of largely unpopulated rural areas.

It’s another good reason for the California Public Utilities Commission to take a fresh look at the merger, and not blindly accept the wisdom of T-Mobile and its friends in Washington, D.C.

Wrangling over T-Mobile’s federal antitrust settlement continues in California

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Two organisations that largely make their living objecting to utility company requests at the California Public Utilities Commission, and then billing the company involved or the CPUC for their time, filed a me too response yesterday to T-Mobile’s bid to speed up review of its proposed merger with Sprint.

T-Mobile, Sprint and DISH reached an agreement a couple of weeks ago that satisfied anti-trust objections raised by the federal justice department. The deal would let T-Mobile take over Sprint, while DISH would get reseller rights on the new network, and spectrum and retail assets to eventually build a competing system. They then asked the CPUC to accept the federal settlement as received wisdom and approve it immediately.

The CPUC’s public advocates office and a major telecoms union swiftly replied, arguing that 1. there was no procedural basis for what T-Mobile asked, and 2. the new deal with DISH needs to be examined rather than rubber stamped.

TURN and Greenlining, which style themselves utility consumer advocates and vigorously partake of the CPUC’s “intervenor compensation” program, [restated those arguments in yesterday’s filing](https://tellusventure.com/downloads/cpuc/t

mobile_sprint/turn_opposition_motion_to_advise_tmobile_sprint_5aug2019.pdf). DISH’s plans, in particular, took some heat, raising the question of how deeply and actively it might need to be involved as the CPUC’s merger review moves ahead.

They also rightly accused T-Mobile of “dismiss[ing] the need for a [CPUC] review and public interest determination of its wireless transaction, instead operating under the presumption that the commission’s review of the wireless transaction has no legal effect”.

There’s no end in sight yet, for either the tussle over the DISH settlement or for the CPUC’s review overall. Last week, T-Mobile asked for and received emailed permission from the administrative law judge managing the case to file a response to everyone’s objections. They can do that any time in the next couple of weeks, but don’t expect them to wait very long.

T-Mobile tempo goes from waltz to tango at CPUC

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tango

T-Mobile’s request for rapid approval of its merger with Sprint and sale of assets to DISH got a staccato response from opponents at the California Public Utilities Commission, but the next step won’t necessarily follow that rhythm. The CPUC’s public advocates office and the Communications Workers of America – a major telecoms industry union – filed their objections yesterday, just three working days after T-Mobile’s motion was submitted.

The objections fall mainly into two categories: procedural and substantive. The procedural objections boil down to “this motion asks the commission to do something that is not provided for anywhere in the rules – to take ‘advisement’ of new facts, after the case has been submitted and the record closed”.

The substantive objections revolve around the sketchy details and uncertain outcome of the settlement that T-Mobile, Sprint and DISH reached with federal justice department. For the past year, the CPUC review has generated thousands of pages of legal argument and testimony about a deal that’s not exactly on the table anymore…

The proposed merger as set forth in this proceeding is solely between Sprint and T-Mobile; however, it appears that Dish Network now has a crucial role in the transaction; namely, to acquire some of Sprint’s assets in order to become a fourth major wireless carrier and allegedly alleviate antitrust concerns. Obviously, Dish’s role in this was not part of the Application because it had not occurred yet; thus, no party has had the opportunity to investigate or analyze the current proposal…

The Commission should consider whether the deal that is actually being proposed is in the public interest.

The standard process for reopening the record and allowing new developments, such as the agreement with DISH to (maybe) launch a competing nationwide mobile network, is lengthier and more contentious. It’s no surprise that T-Mobile, or anyone in their right mind, would want to avoid it. Whether they can or not is in the hands of the administrative law judge managing the case. There’s no particular timeline for him to make a decision.

Led by AT&T meltdown, big U.S. pay TV companies take a dive in second quarter

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

AT&T’s video businesses bled out in the second quarter of 2019, losing nearly a million net subscribers. Its two old school linear platforms, the DirecTv satellite service and the DSL-based Uverse service, hemorrhaged 778,000 subscribers while its DirecTv Now streaming platform took a 168,000 subscriber hit.

Actually, it’s the DirecTv Then platform – its new name, announced yesterday, is AT&T TV Now.

It’s a similar, if less gruesome, story for the other three major U.S. pay TV companies. DISH, which is positioning itself for a run at the mobile telecoms sector, lost 79,000 satellite subscribers but picked up 48,000 Sling streaming customers, for a net loss of 31,000 monthly accounts. That’s better than expected – analysts had predicted a net loss of 252,000 subs – and better than the two big cable companies.

Comcast lost 224,000 video subs, and Charter Communications had a net loss of 141,000, with residential cancellation offset a bit by a gain in business accounts.

All up, the major legacy pay TV companies lost 1.3 million subscribers between April and June of 2019. The second quarter of the year is traditionally a tough time for the subscription video business, as people take advantage of summer to move from one home to another, or to just take off and shut down utilities for a few weeks.

Even so, this year’s second quarter losses are “freaking ugly”, as one Wall Street analyst put it.

It was especially ugly for AT&T, though. It lost more than twice as many subscribers as the other three combined. It comes during a period when AT&T is trying to enter the video and motion picture business in a big way, with its acquisition of HBO, the Warner Bros. studios and the Turner networks. So far, it’s misplaying its hand. Grafting businesses driven by artistic and marketing creativity onto a monopoly model telco is a losing proposition.

It’s going to take more than an uninspired rebranding to make AT&T pretty again.

T-Mobile’s proposed drop kick of employees to DISH might boomerang in California

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Feral kid boomerang

T-Mobile bought out another opponent to its merger with Sprint, but could have hurt its chances of gaining regulatory approval in California.

Following its deal to get resale, retail and spectrum assets from T-Mobile, DISH filed a request yesterday with the California Public Utilities Commission to withdraw its opposition to the merger, saying its agreement with T-Mobile and the federal justice department “will facilitate and accelerate DISH’s entry into the wireless market as a fourth nationwide facilities-based mobile network operator thus solving the harms of the reduction in competition” caused by the merger.

That’s arguable, but might not matter. The California attorney general took the lead on the competition question. The CPUC, on the other hand, is looking at a broader range of issues, which may include whether the merger is “fair and reasonable to affected public utility employees, including both union and nonunion employees”.

Under the deal, DISH would get Sprint’s “prepaid” – i.e. pay for service in advance – wireless customers, who tend to have lower incomes than “post paid” – billed monthly for services used – subscribers. Those customers will continue to use the networks operated by the new, merged Sprint/T-Mobile company, as will any other customers DISH signs up. In industry jargon, DISH will be a “mobile virtual network operator” (MVNO), reselling services provided by the new T-Mobile company.

T-Mobile agreed to hand over information about employees who work on the “prepaid” side of the house, and make them “available for interviews” in case DISH wants to “make offers of employment”. But DISH isn’t required to hire them, and T-Mobile isn’t required to keep them. Combined with DISH’s decades-long obsession with keeping labor costs low and its reliance on independent retailers, that adds considerable weight to the argument made by the Communications Workers of America that the merger will “eliminate jobs”.

It’s also another reason for the CPUC to not rush to judgement on the merits of the merger, as T-Mobile urged last week. It could be months before a decision, and when it comes it might not be yes.

T-Mobile leads 600 MHz auction, DISH slips easily in behind

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

T-Mobile is the big winner, or at least the big spender, in the Federal Communication Commission’s $20 billion incentive auction, walking away with more than half the 600 MHz band licenses up for grabs – 1,525 licenses, 55% of the total. Second place went to DISH, which paid $6.2 billion for 486 licenses, 18% of the total.

Who came in third depends on how you’re figuring it. Comcast bid the third most money – $1.7 billion – but ended up with only 73 licenses, a mere 3%. U.S. Cellular – the distant number five mobile carrier in the U.S. – was number three in the license race, paying $329 million for 188 licenses (7% of the total, but not prime real estate).

AT&T plunked down nearly a gigabuck – $910 million – for 23 licenses, a 1% share. Verizon, on the other hand, was shut out, winning zero licenses but, on the other hand, paying zero dollars.

Sprint didn’t participate, or at least not under its own flag. There will certainly be further wheeling and dealing. Many of the winning bidders appear to be have transaction motives rather than action plans.

DISH is top of that list. Chairman Charlie Ergen made the leap from millionaire to billionaire after placing a low cost, high return bet on direct broadband satellite slots back in the 80s, and has been playing the spectrum sweepstakes ever since. He’ll light up frequencies himself when there’s an open field – as there was with DBS once it got going in 90s – but otherwise manages his licenses as an investment portfolio.

Don’t expect anything revolutionary from anyone in the near term. It’ll take a few years to move TV stations off of the frequencies they’re giving up in exchange for $10 billion. And which they, or at least the original license holders, paid exactly zilch to acquire.

Satellite TV’s special circumstances are history

by Steve Blum • , , ,

For more than 20 years, satellite television companies have gotten a pass on many of the federal regulations that apply to their cable competitors. There was a lot of righteous rhetoric in those days about why Direct Broadcast Satellite was unique and should be allowed to live by different rules. But the underlying thinking was that satellite companies were small, cable companies were big and it was in everyone’s interest to foster a competitive alternative.

Those assumptions no longer hold. The two surviving DBS companies, DirecTv and DISH, have more subscribers than any cable company save Comcast. Only DISH remains independent, now that AT&T has absorbed DirecTv. Now, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to treat DBS and cable identically as it writes new rules opening up the set top box market

In the First [1998] Plug and Play Report and Order, the Commission exempted DBS providers from our foundational separation of security requirement because “customer ownership of satellite earth stations receivers and signal decoding equipment has been the norm in the DBS field.” This meant that DBS was also exempt from most of the rules that the Commission adopted in the Second [2003] Plug and Play Order. Unfortunately, in the intervening years the market did not evolve as we expected; in fact, from a navigation device perspective, it appears that the market for devices that can access DBS multichannel video programming has devolved to one that relies almost exclusively on equipment leased from the DBS provider. Accordingly…we tentatively conclude that any regulations we adopt should apply to DBS.

The plug and play orders were the FCC’s first attempt at breaking down the walled content gardens that network operators have built over the years. As acknowledged in the current FCC proceeding, those efforts didn’t work so well. This third try might not either. But treating all network owners the same is necessary if there’s to be any hope of success.

Back in the day, I wrote a lot of that righteous rhetoric. I’m proud to say that much of it remains as pungent today as when it was penned. I’m not an innocent bystander.

DISH hops in late to California’s Charter party

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

DISH, the only independent direct broadcast satellite company in the U.S., has been trying to scuttle Charter Communications’ purchase of Time Warner’s and Bright House’s cable systems. Up until today, it’s focused its efforts on the Federal Communications Commission’s review of the deal. Now, though, in kind of a daddy’s not sure, go ask mommy move, it’s asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to get into the proceeding here.

In its filing, DISH says it fears Charter will use its control of the high speed broadband market to kill off competition…

This transaction would permit and motivate the combined company (“New Charter”) to hurt or destroy online video rivals, including the Sling TV over-the- top video service [owned by DISH], through its control over the broadband pipe…

This transaction will create a duopoly in the market for high-speed broadband service (defined as 25 Mbps and above), as it will result in two broadband providers – New Charter and Comcast – controlling about 90 percent of the nation’s high-speed broadband homes between them.

I don’t doubt that DISH worries about the dangers broadband monopolies pose to its online businesses, but stopping a competing pay TV distributor from improving its market position has to figure into its opposition too. If it didn’t, DISH would probably get more mileage out of pushing for stricter network neutrality conditions at the FCC, rather than try to kill it completely at the CPUC, as it seems to be doing.

It’s up the CPUC administrative law judge managing the review to decide whether DISH gets to be a full participant in the proceeding. With the review well along – last week was the deadline for filing testimony, for example – DISH has a tougher case to make than if it had jumped in last summer when this all began.

I’m assisting the City of Gonzales with its effort to upgrade broadband service via the CPUC’s review of the Charter-Time Warner-Bright House deal. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

DISH is first to complete the 4K product-content-distribution loop

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Any 4K you have.

Like HDTV before it, 4K ultra high definition television programming will enter the U.S. consumer mainstream via satellite. At its CES press conference yesterday, DISH Network announced that it will soon offer the 4K Joey. That’s what it calls its new set top box that streams satellite-delivered UHD channels to any 4K-capable television. Content availability, though, is less clear. According to the company…

DISH will deliver 4K content from several providers. Specific announcements will be made closer to the consumer launch of 4K Joey, which is slated for the second quarter.

Vivek Khemka, DISH’s SVP of product management, claimed that the new box is the first to be compatible with any 4K TV that uses the HDMI/HDCP standards.

The 4K Joey will be built on top of a Broadcom dual-core chipset and Broadcom 7448 dual-core ARM processor that Khemka says will support 4K at 60 frames per second.

Assuming the content is there – programming produced in 4K or better, not just HD bumped up as best as possible – DISH is providing the fuel that can make CEA’s prediction of a 4K firestorm feasible. Expect DirecTv to follow, at least in 4K-to-the-press-release fashion. And DISH’s other big announcement yesterday – streaming traditional sports, news and other live and linear channels over the Internet – means it’s positioned to deliver that 4K content that way too.

If broadband networks can handle the load. With continuous streams in the 5 to 10 Mbps-plus range – maybe several times plus if the programming is live – it won’t take too many 4K-capable homes on a given DOCSIS or VDSL node to slam traffic to a crawl. Copper might handle those speeds for a few, but with U.S. 4K penetration forecast to clear the 20% breakout hurdle before the end of the decade, the only plausible alternative now to satellite is fiber.

Sling TV offers traditional channels via broadband for $20 a month

by Steve Blum • , ,

Best of all, no cable company.
Roger Lynch, CEO Sling TV

Targeting the millennial generation, Sling TV – a sister company of DISH Network – announced it will offer a line up of 25 to 30 traditional cable channels via broadband for $20 per month, with no commitment or contract, beginning later this month.

“All you need is a credit card and a broadband connection”, said DISH CEO Joe Clayton. The channels can be streamed on pretty much any device you have: mobile phone, tablet, PC, smart TV and, crucially, streaming devices made by other online television providers like Netflix or Hulu. Or DISH.

For now, the $20 over-the-top package includes ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN, with more announcements expected.

Clayton hinted at flexible offerings as well, promising packages that will “allow customers to tailor their experience”. Not quite ala carte, but getting closer. Sling CEO Roger Lynch was a little less forward leaning on his promises, talking about targeted add-ons to the core $20 package rather than a true you pick ’em service. Upgrades for news and kids programming will be available at launch; an extended sports package is in the works. Lynch said it’ll include additional ESPN channels, but the big – and unanswered – question is whether it’ll also include regional sports networks.

Live programming – particularly sports – is the big hole in the over-the-top content market. As younger viewers look to customisable, on-demand services, Sling’s strategy is to integrate a thin package of the most sought after sports, news and other relentlessly linear content into the viewing habits of the Netflix and Hulu generation.

“New adoption of pay TV is declining, particularly among millennials”, Lynch said. Sling’s solution is to deliver it to them where they already are, rather than fighting the losing battle of trying to force them back into into legacy cable or DBS subscriptions.