The United States Federal Communications Commission may return up to $3.2 billion of spectrum licenses to Dish by early 2019, settling the years-long dispute that started when SNR Wireless LicenseCo and Northstar Wireless purchased significant AWS-3 holdings at a small business discount but had a portion of them revoked due to their ties to Dish that the regulator concluded ultimately required them to pay the full price for the spectrum. Dish also received a $515 million fine in 2016 due to the ordeal but managed to partially reverse the decision last year after winning a legal battle over the matter, with a federal appeals court deciding the FCC should have provided the company and its partners with an opportunity to restructure their relationship and make themselves eligible for the transaction that already took place instead of immediately relinquishing them of a significant spectrum portfolio.
Dish said it plans to take advantage of the late August ruling and is presently in the process of revising its partnership. New Street Research analysts believe the Englewood, Colorado-based satellite service provider has a realistic chance of completely reversing the decision, winning back both the $3.2 billion worth of valuable spectrum and having its $515 million fine returned. Even just reverting the financial penalty would be categorized as a win by Dish, though regaining the lost spectrum is still understood to be a priority for the firm with growing networking ambitions. The process of restructuring its business dealings and resubmitting its proposal to the FCC should be completed in the second half of 2018, NSR analysts believe, adding that the matter is almost guaranteed to be settled no late than early 2019 regardless of the outcome.
Even yet another failed attempt at winning back the spectrum wouldn't be a major defeat for the company given how it would just lead to a status quo, according to the analytics firm's research note quoted by FierceWireless. Dish's stock was largely unchanged as of Friday afternoon EST, with some industry watchers believing the possibility of any positive outcome of the appellate process currently isn't calculated in its market cap. According to NSR, Dish could gain up to $7 per share if it manages to have its AWS-3 spectrum returned and its fine revoked. Even if Dish doesn't get the spectrum returned, it would likely be able to bid for it again if the FCC decides to reauction it, though it's presently unclear how keen would other telecom giants in the country be to compete for the currently ownerless holdings.