Dish Network’s attempt to get more time to buy valuable spectrum from T-Mobile got support from the Justice Department.
The agency urged the U.S. District Court in Washington to give Dish until April 1 to finalize the $3.5 billion purchase, according to a filing. The company had already blown through its August deadline, Bloomberg reported.
The Justice Department marks just the latest twist in what was supposed to be a simple transaction that has somehow snowballed into a bitter fight. Cash-strapped Dish needs more time to make the purchase, but T-Mobile wants to walk away and auction off the radio airwaves to another buyer. The agency suggested that T-Mobile look for other buyers even as it sticks to its proposed deadline.
“We are pleased the DOJ’s filing reaffirmed DISH’s role as the nation’s fourth facilities-based wireless carrier and recognized the importance of the 800 MHz spectrum in enhancing DISH’s ability to compete,” a Dish spokesperson told Cord Cutters News.
T-Mobile wasn’t immediately available for comment.
A few days after Dish and T-Mobile were in talks about the multi-billion dollar sale, Dish asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to extend the deal’s closure to June 2024. The satellite TV provider is over $20 million in debt and needed more time to secure funding for the spectrum licenses. T-Mobile pushed back calling Dish’s request a “stalling tactic.”
Dish wanted to buy a swath of the 800 Mhz spectrum from T-Mobile to build out its 5G network. The 800 Mhz spectrum is in the low-band category with average speeds but a wide coverage area.
The Justice Department is stepping in because it was the agency that originally set up Dish to acquire T-Mobile’s assets, including its prepaid business, Boost, to bolster its wireless ambitions. Both the Justice Department and Dish are aiming to become a fourth wireless option for consumers to replace Sprint, which T-Mobile acquired two years ago.
While Dish has touted near-nationwide coverage with its 5G network, its own wireless service remains under the radar for consumers. The Boost prepaid business it purchased from Sprint, meanwhile, continues to lose subscribers despite aggressive promotions and a partnership with Amazon.