During a third-quarter earnings call with analysts on Monday, DISH Network President Charles Ergen confirmed his company’s intention to bid in a re-auction of Advanced Wireless Service (AWS-3) licenses that were surrendered to the FCC by DISH-backed affiliates SNR Wireless and Northstar Wireless after the FCC denied $3.3 billion in AWS-3 designated entity (DE) bid credits claimed by both entities.
Ergen’s pronouncement comes on the heels of T-Mobile’s letter to the FCC last week in which T-Mobile urged the agency to block DISH, SNR and Northstar from participating in the upcoming re-auction. Officials at DISH, SNR and Northstar declined to comment on the T-Mobile letter. The FCC had previously concluded that, while denial of the DE bid credits was warranted, there were no grounds on which to “render an adverse decision as to Applicant’s basic qualifications to hold licenses.” Although SNR and Northstar have yet to decide whether they will participate in the yet-to-be-scheduled re-auction, Ergen told analysts that “we plan to participate in the re-auction” of the 197 licenses on which Northstar and SNR had defaulted. Because the FCC requires defaulters to pay the difference if the re-auctioned licenses sell at a lower price that what was originally bid, Ergen acknowledged that DISH could face financial risk by participating in the re-auction. Anticipating, however, that the re-auctioned licenses will “go for pretty high prices,” Ergen said the prospect of further financial liability is “not something that’s . . . . keeping me up at night.” Ergen also affirmed that SNR and Northstar are pursuing legal challenges against the FCC’s DE decision in court, observing that both affiliates “have a strong case, and I’m confident that they followed the [FCC’s] rules.”