Dish will get its 4G network, but there’s a catch

It looks like Dish Network(s dish) will get the permission it has long sought to use its satellite airwaves for a terrestrial LTE network — but not necessarily the way it planned. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed rules on Dish’s airwaves that would appear to limit just how much of its spectrum it can use and the power at which it can transmit.

According to Dish, that would put a severe damper on its ability to deploy a viable commercial 4G service and limit its ability to secure devices. Consequently, Dish isn’t happy, and it immediately began decrying the chairman’s proposal, heading it off before it goes to the full commission after the Thanksgiving break. Here’s what Dish EVP and general counsel R. Stanton Dodge had to say in a statement:

“While the FCC’s proposed order, based on reported accounts, does properly address some of the opportunities with this spectrum, it’s significantly flawed by introducing serious limitations that impair its utility. While the FCC would grant full terrestrial rights, its proposal to lower our power and emissions levels could cripple our ability to enter the business.

“The good news is that this proposed order is not final and we urge Chairman Genachowski and the Commissioners to recognize that the DISH plan delivers on the greatest public interest – the most investment, the most jobs and the most spectrum.”

Whether Dish really deploys a network or merely plans to flip its newly 4G-ified spectrum for a quick profit remains to be seem, though there has been some recent noise about the possibility of Google(s goog) taking an interest in any Dish LTE venture.

The big point of contention is a block of spectrum adjacent to Dish known as the PCS H-block. The FCC plans to auction off this hunk of frequencies, and Sprint(s s) has high hopes of winning it to boost the capacity of the LTE network it’s deploying today. Sprint has lobbied the FCC to put limits on Dish’s spectrum in order to prevent interference with the H-block it so covets. Apparently Sprint is getting its wish.

The FCC didn’t reveal any details of the proposal, but it seems to be taking the position that Genachowski proposal — while not pleasing everyone — will clear the most spectrum for mobile broadband use as well as raise the most money for federal coffers.

“Chairman Julius Genachowski today shared proposals with his colleagues that will unleash up to 50MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband, including LTE,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said in a statement. “If approved, these actions will promote competition, investment and innovation, and advance Commission efforts to unleash spectrum for mobile broadband to help meet skyrocketing consumer demand, while unlocking billions of dollars of value to the public.”

Dish photo courtesy of (CC BY 2.0) Flickr user Dave Lindblom.