Dish's counter-offer for Clearwire is intriguing. I recently completed a presentation detailing the challenges of a spectrum sale in the EBS/BRS spectrum. Clearwire's press release states that this offer was on the table when Sprint's offer was received but Sprint's offer was deemed better. Tim Farrar's Blog indicates that the spectrum sale would likely be for Clearwire's BRS spectrum. This is a realistic assumption. In my presentation (linked in a previous blog) I highlighted that one of the primary problems with the leased spectrum is that it has limited geographic coverage, covering many of the dense metro areas but not contiguous all the way to a county or BTA border. There are still a few elements of a BRS spectrum sale that should be understood.
From the image above, the BRS spectrum sale would include the Orange (BRS1/BRS2) channels, the Pink (E channels), Light Blue (F channels) and Brown (H channels). This would equate to one contiguous block of 55.5MHz of spectrum, a 12MHz block of spectrum (E4,F4), and the isolated BRS1 channel. The 12MHz block could only be used if mid-band video operations have ceased in a market. Currently, I don't believe that any of the Top 10 markets have completed ceased video operations. The 55MHz of spectrum can support 2 - 20MHz TDD-LTE channels. This would virtually eliminate the ability to utilize the EBS/BRS spectrum for any FDD-LTE operations. It may be possible with a guardband in the H channels to operate the D channels and G channels in a FDD-LTE configuration.
In looking at the LTE Bandplans, the potential Dish spectrum allocation would miss the international TDD-LTE Band 38 which Softbank, China Mobile, and the UK auctions are using. We will have to watch carefully to see if international devices will include functionality of Band 41.
My last area of concern is whether that will leave enough spectrum for Clearwire to continue to operate their WiMax network as they bring their TDD-LTE network online. Additionally, with the geographic limitations of the leased channels, there may be a limited number of sites operating on Clearwire's network today, that won't have available spectrum without the owned channel spectrum.