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DISH Calls Foul on T-Mobile’s Plans for 800 MHz Spectrum

 |  July 5, 2024

By: Gregory Kunkle (Beyond Telecom)

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice and the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota brought a civil antitrust suit opposing the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. According to the lawsuit, consolidating nationwide carriers from four to three would reduce competition to an unacceptable degree, ultimately harming consumers. To resolve the complaint, and in an effort to encourage competition, T-Mobile agreed to divest certain assets, including approximately 13.5 MHz of nationwide wireless spectrum in the 817-824/862-869 MHz band (“800 MHz Spectrum”). DISH Network stepped up and agreed to a purchase price of $3.59 billion.

The parties were originally due to close the deal by June 30, 2023, however, DISH needed additional time and negotiated an extension until April 1, 2024. Speculation was that DISH’s merger with Echostar and other improving economic conditions would place it on better footing to close the deal. This proved not to be the case, as DISH did not exercise its purchase right on April 1, 2024.

But the DOJ settlement had a Plan B. It provided that if DISH did not purchase the 800 MHz spectrum, T-Mobile would be required to hold an auction for the spectrum by October 1, 2024. Consistent with that requirement, on T-Mobile’s April 25, 2024, Q1 earnings call, Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s president and CEO, stated the auction “has begun.”