Dish says there’s zero chance it will buy T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum

  • Dish parent company EchoStar says there's not enough time left before the deadline to finance the spectrum purchase.

  • The spectrum deal was initially conceived as part of T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint in 2020.

  • Dish paid T-Mobile $100 million last fall for an extension on purchase of the spectrum.

Dish is throwing in the towel on its agreement to purchase all of T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum licenses for $3.59 billion. In an SEC filing, Dish parent company EchoStar revealed that it is unable to get the financing necessary to pay T-Mobile for the 800 MHz spectrum licenses by the April 1 deadline. 

In the 10K, Dish said that although it was involved in various negotiations with other parties to get the financing necessary to purchase the 800 MHz spectrum, it has been unsuccessful.

“Due to the relatively short time remaining before the 800 MHz purchase option’s expiration on April 1, 2024, we no longer believe it is a probability that we will exercise the option. Therefore, we reduced the probability weighted value of the spectrum option to zero,” it wrote.

This spectrum deal was initially conceived as part of T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint back in 2020. To get the Department of Justice to approve that acquisition, T-Mobile had to agree to sell its 800 MHz spectrum to Dish, which paved the way for it to become a fourth facilities-based wireless operator in the U.S.

Dish was originally supposed to pay T-Mobile for the spectrum licenses by June 30, 2023, but after months of wrangling with T-Mobile Dish was able to get that deadline extended to April 1, 2024. In return for the extension Dish prepaid T-Mobile $100 million in October that it will now forfeit because of its inability to come up with the rest of the funds.

Roger Entner, analyst with Recon Analytics, says that Dish’s decision to walk away from the deal won’t have much of an impact on the company. Although 800 MHz low-band spectrum is considered ideal for blanketing large areas with wireless coverage, Entner said that the small chunk of 800 MHz spectrum that Dish would have received from T-Mobile wasn’t enough to provide a lot of extra capacity or additional services.

“They are better off not buying this,” Entner said. 

Entner also speculated that the reason Dish Network fought to get an extension on the original June 30, 2023, deadline was so the company could have additional spectrum to use as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.

“This was a negotiation tool,” he concluded.