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Dish Eyes On Wireless Prize As Clayton Set To Retire

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. − Dish Network still has its eyes on the wireless market, and chairman Charlie Ergen told analysts last week that the company is girding for a fight with the major wireless carriers.

Dish has said it wants to diversify beyond its mature satellite-TV business and possibly use wireless spectrum to offer triple-play packages combining home phone and broadband service with satellite- TV service.

Ergen said Dish isn’t pressed for time to launch wireless service and is in a “good position strategically.”

The company is repurposing a share of its AWS-4 2-2.2GHz satellite spectrum for terrestrial use, and has until 2017 to build out the network to reach 40 percent of the population in its licensed areas, Ergen said. If that milestone is missed, Dish’s timetable for completing the build-out accelerates to 2020 from 2021, he said.

For the 1,695-1,710MHz AWS-3 spectrum that it won recently at auction, Dish has 12 years to build out the network from the time it is issued licenses.

Dish has “lots of battles ahead of us,” Ergen said of the build-out, contending that when competition is on the horizon, “the big guys try to stop you.” Competing carriers will go to the 3GPP international standards- setting group to prevent the group from approving Dish’s bands for use in handsets, and carriers will lobby handset vendors to keep Dish’s bands out, he said. “Once 3GPP approves the bands, then we’ll build out.”

Ergen acknowledged that Dish has many options for its spectrum, including selling or leasing some to carriers, but Dish’s “dream” is still to enter the marketplace “and provide meaningful competition,” he said. “Hopefully we’re going to use it,” he said.

The call with analysts followed the announcement that current president/CEO Joe Clayton will retire from his position effective March 31. Ergen, who co-founded Dish and preceded Clayton as president and CEO, will resume both positions.

Clayton, a 42-year veteran of the consumer electronics industry, leaves the post he assumed in June 2011. He will also retire from Dish’s board.

Prior to Dish, Clayton was chairman and CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio. Before joining Sirius, Clayton was president of Global Crossing North America, president and CEO of Frontier, and executive marketing and sales VP at Thomson.

Clayton was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2008.

He served on EchoStar’s board of directors and is a former chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association.

“Joe’s leadership has been instrumental to Dish as we have worked to engineer a fundamental transformation of our business,” said Ergen. “He has set the stage for what will become a new company, and with that he has prepared a new class of management to address the adventures coming our way.”