FCC denies Dish request for a waiver, moves to convert airwaves for cell use

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The commission plans to vote at its next meeting to begin seeking comment on converting the spectrum band. An FCC aide said the process will likely take six to nine months.

Dish Network, which currently provides satellite TV service, could choose to move forward with plans to launch its own wireless service, or it could sell the spectrum to another company. 

"Since the release of the National Broadband Plan two years ago, the Commission has been clear and consistent about its intent to remove regulatory barriers in this band through a rulemaking to unleash more spectrum for mobile broadband," FCC spokesman Neil Grace said. "In light of the unique characteristics of this spectrum band, including the possibility of converting it to full terrestrial use, and based on the record in this proceeding, the rulemaking process will best serve the public interest and maximize the long-term value of the spectrum for the American economy."

Dish's situation was similar to that of LightSquared, a wireless company that wanted to operate cell towers on satellite spectrum. Although the FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver to launch its cell network, the agency reversed itself after tests showed LightSquared's signal would interfere with nearby GPS devices.

The FCC aide said Dish Network's frequencies are not close to those of GPS companies or other sensitive devices.