Dish reluctantly extends its 600 MHz spectrum loan to T-Mobile

The days of Dish and T-Mobile playing nice may be coming to an end. On March 13, during the height of the coronavirus crisis, Dish lent its portfolio of 600 MHz spectrum to T-Mobile at no cost for 60 days in order to bolster wireless capacity during the pandemic.

RELATED: Dish lets T-Mobile tap its 600 MHz spectrum in response to COVID-19

Recently, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asked service providers to extend their Keep Americans Connected pledge until June 30. In conjunction with that, T-Mobile asked Dish for an extension of its 600 MHz spectrum loan until June 30.

According to its “Request for Extension of Special Temporary Authority” sent to the FCC, T-Mobile says the continued use of Dish’s spectrum is necessary to support the needs of customers who are still working and learning from home. It says usage of smartphones for hotspot tethering is up 57% on T-Mobile’s network, often for laptop and tablets used for schooling at home. “Extension of the STA is therefore necessary for T-Mobile to continue to meet consumer demands,” wrote T-Mobile.

Dish responded with a letter to the FCC, saying it was unwilling to grant T-Mobile’s request for continued free use of its 600 MHz licenses until June 30. Dish cited a number of reasons for refusing the request.

It said granting the extension could interfere with the Department of Justice’s evaluation of a commercial lease between the parties related to the terms of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. Dish said the parties have not yet stuck a commercial lease agreement deal for Dish’s 600 MHz licenses.

Dish also said in its letter to the FCC, “The purpose of Dish's initial grant was to help T-Mobile increase capacity during the crisis to serve customers, not to use Dish’s spectrum as part of a commercial marketing effort.” Dish complained that since T-Mobile gained temporary access to Dish’s 600 MHz spectrum in mid-March, the company has publicized the capacity benefits of this spectrum in press statements, tweets and advertisements “in an apparent effort to acquire new subscribers.”

However, Dish did agree to a day-to-day extension of the special temporary authority for T-Mobile to continue to use the 600 MHz spectrum “in light of the continued COVID-19 crisis and as the parties await a decision from the DOJ,” said Dish.

Dish said this “excludes license call sign WQZM540 because we plan to begin our own testing in the Denver market on May 15, 2020.”

The terms of the day-to-day lease will expire 72 hours after a DoJ decision on the commercial terms of a lease between the parties, or June 30, 2020, whichever is earlier.