Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen says despite the discounts his company might be awarded on spectrum won in the FCC’s AWS-3 auction, the airwave sale still represents a big win for U.S. taxpayers.
Ergen spoke with CNBC about how Dish’s Designated Entity (DE) bidding partners have grabbed headlines with $3 billion in total discounts they netted during the auction. But he said the real story is the increased auction revenue, due in part to Dish’s participation creating competition and not allowing AT&T and Verizon to foreclose other participants.
The AWS-3 auction raised $44.9 billion in total revenue, well above analysts estimates going in. AT&T, Dish, T-Mobile and Verizon accounted for the majority of the money spent on the 65 MHz of available spectrum.
Ergen said the DE structure and Dish’s participation probably raised the auction value $20 billion to $25 billion.
In an FCC filing from February, Verizon provided its analysis of the auction and said it showed that Dish’s coordinated strategy with its bidding partners drove other DEs out of the running and artificially inflated the value of the available spectrum.
Ergen defended Dish’s auction strategy and said it did not distort the results. He said there was nothing artificial about Dish’s strategy and that the company wanted to win all the licenses if possible, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Verizon, AT&T and regulators have all joined in criticism of Dish’s potential auction discounts. AT&T most recently suggested a $10 million cap on auction credits for DEs along with a strict spectrum buildout requirement, suggestions aimed at Dish, which has drawn some disapproval as it has continued to acquire wireless broadband spectrum without a clear deployment strategy.
Ergen told CNBC that the rules can’t be changed after the fact and chalked up the opposition to sour grapes, pointing directly at Verizon and saying the carrier might be concerned that T-Mobile now has the fastest network.
But the vocal opposition may be having an effect as the FCC is still currently reviewing Dish’s auction discounts and has yet to award AWS-3 licenses to Dish.