T-Mobile and Dish’s Wireless Spectrum Deal Looks Doomed




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T-Mobile isn’t willing to play games with Dish Network.

T-Mobile and Dish had entered into a deal for T-Mobile to sell a swath of its spectrum in the 800 Mhz band to Dish, a move that would help the satellite provider build out its own 5G network. But earlier this month, Dish asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to push back the completion of the deal to June of next year. T-Mobile isn’t having it, and asked the court to deny Dish’s request to delay the deal, according to LightReading.

Dish, already burdened with more than $20 million in debt, said it needs an additional 10 months to secure additional funding to pay T-Mobile $3.6 billion for the spectrum licenses.

“The possibility that Dish might find it ‘more onerous than anticipated’ to obtain financing was not only foreseen by the parties but specifically addressed and prohibited as a basis for not performing on their contract,” T-Mobile told the US District Court for the District of Columbia, as reported by LightReading.

T-Mobile doubled down on a follow-up statement: “DISH’s motion should be denied. They continue to tie up valuable 800 MHz spectrum that they have not yet even committed to buy. Their hardship claim is a stalling tactic that is detrimental to putting this spectrum to use for consumers.” 

Dish declined to comment, instead deferring to filing.

This marks just the latest hurdle in Dish’s struggle to build out a nationwide network to become the fourth viable option for consumers. The satellite TV provider had been accumulating spectrum for years before acquiring Sprint’s pre-paid Boost assets and moving into the wireless business. But Dish has been steadily losing Boost customers for the last two years and its own 5G service isn’t even widely available.

Dish earlier this year crossed the 70% threshold in terms of coverage across the nation, and is at 73% as of June 14. But it takes a significant amount of capital and resources to get it past the next government-mandated deadline, which is covering 75% by 2025. The T-Mobile spectrum, which runs in the so-called mid-band frequency and has a nice mix of speed and coverage, would’ve significantly helped with that effort.

The continuously rising interest rates has made it more difficult for anyone to borrow funds, and Dish already has significant debt, making it difficult to obtain new funding. S&P Global Ratings has Dish at a “B-.”

If Dish isn’t able to complete the deal, T-Mobile would be obligated to hold an auction for the spectrum, according to LightReading.

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