Dish May Partner With T-Mobile If AT&T Acquisition Fails

Dish Network Corp., the second largest U.S. satellite-TV provider, may partner with T-Mobile USA if AT&T Inc.’s takeover bid fails, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Clayton said in an interview.

Dish, which acquired wireless spectrum earlier this year as part of deals for bankrupt DBSD North America Inc. and Terrestar Networks Inc., could merge the spectrum assets with T-Mobile or another wireless company to create a strengthened competitor to AT&T and Verizon Wireless, said Clayton. T-Mobile needs additional spectrum to offer higher-speed wireless service for smartphones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

One scenario is for Dish and a partner such as T-Mobile to combine their wireless assets into a new company, Clayton said. Dish could also team up with Sprint Nextel Corp. or Clearwire Corp., he said. Any deal would require approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

“We’re not interested in making money on selling our spectrum,” said Clayton in the interview. “We want to use it to create a national wireless network, video, voice and data. We’ve got expertise in satellite-TV, and we will in satellite broadband. The voice part, we’ll need some help with.”

Dish may buy assets from AT&T and T-Mobile if the companies divest customers and spectrum to address regulatory concerns over the merger, Clayton said. Dish has publicly opposed the T-Mobile acquisition, saying it hurts competition.

“We feel if the AT&T-T-Mobile deal goes through, we win,” he said. “If it doesn’t go through, we still win.”

Deal on Hold

Dish is still waiting for FCC approval to use the spectrum it acquired this year and can’t make final plans until that happens, Clayton said.

“We like our hand,” he said. “We just don’t know what all the cards are yet. Until the FCC opines on our licenses and on the AT&T-T-Mobile merger, it’s still somewhat cloudy.”

The U.S. Justice Department sued in August to block AT&T’s proposed purchase on antitrust grounds. The agency and AT&T agreed today to put the case on hold, as the Dallas-based company considers “whether and how to revise our current transaction to achieve the necessary regulatory approvals.”

Brad Burns, an AT&T spokesman, declined to comment on Clayton’s comments. Andreas Fuchs, a spokesman for T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom AG, said a deal with Dish isn’t being considered.

“Deutsche Telekom is pursuing the AT&T deal,” he said. “There is no plan B.,”

Dish fell 0.6 percent to $25.68 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 31 percent this year. AT&T declined 0.1 percent to $29.01 and has dropped 1.3 percent this year.