Sprint Pulls Out of U.S. Airwaves Auction Now Led by Dish

Sprint Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, says it won’t bid on airwaves known as the H Block in an auction planned by the Federal Communications Commission, giving Dish Network Corp. one less competitor.

“We have opted not to participate in the upcoming H Block auction,” John Taylor, a Sprint spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The move to forgo a bid on high-speed spectrum is a sudden shift for Sprint, which urged regulators to move quickly on the auction just two months ago. The decision comes a day after T-Mobile said in a filing that it also wasn’t interested in the H Block airwaves. With the two carriers passing, Dish is left as a bidder with the opportunity to capture more airwaves cheaply.

Dish has offered the FCC a $1.56 billion floor price. As a condition of the minimum bid, Dish is asking that regulators allow broader use of airwaves it already has. If the negotiation is successful it will boost the value of the spectrum, adding to Dish’s rising appeal among investors.

Justin Cole, an FCC spokesman, didn’t have an immediate comment. John Hall, a Dish spokesman, declined to comment.

Sprint said it is focusing more on acquiring lower-frequency airwaves to help round out its spectrum holdings. Sprint is also trying to build a super-fast long-term evolution network, called Spark, using the airwaves it acquired in the Clearwire takeover.

Sprint Spark

“With the launch of Sprint Spark, Sprint is working to deploy its 2.5-gigahertz licenses along with licenses in 800-megahertz and 1.9 megahertz to provide customers greater network speeds and capacity,” Sprint spokesman Taylor said in the e-mail.

Sprint says its goal is to have Spark in about 100 of the largest U.S. cities by the end of 2016.

The H Block auction stands to be the biggest sale of commercially useful frequencies since 2008 -- the year after Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone and helped ignite a surge in demand for wireless data.

Congress last year mandated the sale of the H Block and the other frequencies for commercial use by February 2015 as a way to address wireless demand and raise money for a nationwide communications network for emergency workers.

Lawmakers identified most of the airwaves to be sold and told regulators to identify one more swath for auction. It hasn’t been chosen, adding uncertainty to plans to offer frequencies alongside the H Block.

The stakes are high for the multibillion-dollar auctions, which can leave winners flush with frequencies to feed smartphones and losers barraged with complaints of slow apps and Web pages.

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