Satellite TV broadcaster Dish Network wants to build a wireless broadband network as a way to help it compete more effectively with cable TV and phone companies that offer video services.
Cable and phone companies are able to bundle TV signals with Internet access services. Satellite companies cannot do so as well because satellites can't provide Internet services to many households, and speeds are slower.
In a filing late Monday, Dish asked the Federal Communications Commission to let it use the wireless spectrum of satellite company TerreStar Corp., which it bought last year out of bankruptcy, for ground-based broadband service.
Dish didn't say when it would build the network or how many people it would cover. It plans to use a network technology for which devices could show up in 2014. It said tablet computers would be one possible category of device to use the network, but it also mentions home terminals that combine satellite TV and wireless broadband access.
Another company, LightSquared, is also trying to repurpose satellite spectrum for terrestrial broadband. That project has run up against concerns that its signals will interfere with GPS navigation.
Dish, which is based in Englewood, Colo., stressed in its FCC filing that its signals won't cause similar interference, because it would be using different frequencies.
Satellite industry analyst Tim Farrar said Dish's application sets the stage for negotiations with the FCC on how much of the country Dish's network will cover and whether Dish will give rivals wholesale access, which they can then resell to customers.
The FCC tries to promote the expansion of wireless broadband services, but the scarcity of spectrum and the high cost of putting up antennas and cell towers is a big obstacle. A network covering a significant part of the country would cost billions of dollars.
The U.S. satellite TV industry, consisting of Dish and DirecTV Group Inc., posted a net loss of subscribers for the first time in the three months that ended in June. Although DirecTV saw a small gain, it wasn't enough to offset Dish's loss of 135,000 subscribers. After more than a decade of rapid growth, the companies are now increasingly hamstrung by their inability to offer Internet service.
Dish ended June with 14.1 million TV subscribers, making it the third-largest provider of pay-TV signals in the country.