DISH Network Could Partner with Sprint Nextel for Mobile Phone Service

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Sprint Nextel has approached DISH Network about a partnership allowing the satellite TV provider to offer mobile phone service over the carrier’s network. The potential deal would give Sprint access to DISH Network’s mobile airwaves, which are currently not being used. Companies could then share revenue for customers who sign up for a wireless service through DISH. The deal would allow DISH to enter the mobile phone market without having to build its own network, and cross-sell the service to its 14 million satellite TV customers.

Here are more details from the Omaha World-Herald:

“A Sprint partnership may be the best possibility,” said Tim Farrar, an analyst with TMF Associates Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif. “It could be quite disruptive.”

Joe Clayton, chief executive officer of Englewood, Colo.-based Dish, declined to discuss talks with Sprint beyond saying, “We speak with everybody.” Discussions with partners are on hold for now while Dish waits for a government ruling on how it can use its spectrum, he said in an interview. The Federal Communications Commission is slated to discuss the issue at a meeting Wednesday.

Sprint also declined to comment on Dish, though it said the company is generally interested in partnerships that would give it access to airwaves. “We are open to spectrum-hosting opportunities with other spectrum holders who can’t or don’t want to build a network for their spectrum,” said Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint.

While a Dish partnership would have to be approved by Softbank Corp., which agreed in October to buy a controlling stake in Sprint, an accord could be reached before regulators sign off on that deal, one person familiar with the matter said.

For Sprint, the partnership is one of several actions the No. 3 carrier is considering to help it challenge market leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T. The investment from Softbank will provide Sprint with an $8 billion cash infusion, giving the carrier money to make deals.

Sprint already has a spectrum-sharing joint venture with Clearwire Corp., the Bellevue, Wash., wireless broadband wholesaler.

Stay tuned to the TV, Internet and Phone Blog for more details as they develop.

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