Dish Network's purchase of wireless spectrum has raised the hackles of some competitors, but Chairman and CEO Charles Ergen said Thursday the U.S. taxpayer benefited from his company's participation in the government auction.
At issue is the $3.3 billion discount Dish and its partners received by making their bids through smaller companies known as designated entities.
"The big headline is, well that's a loss to the taxpayer, and that's a pretty easy headline if you look at it on a very superficial level," he said in an interview on "Squawk on the Street."
"But the other side of that, the people who really know about auctions and really understand these things and actually take a closer look at it realize that this auction generated $20 to $25 billion more for the U.S. Treasury in terms of value," he said. "Most people thought this auction would be $10, $15, maybe $20 billion."
The partners led by Dish spent $13.3 billion to acquire wireless licenses in the most recent auction of government-owned spectrum. The Federal Communications Commission raised a record $44.9 billion in the auction.
"So if you take the $3 billion discount off of that, do the math. Somewhere between $15 and $20 billion, the taxpayer made more because of our participation," he said. "Overall, when you study the matter, the Treasury made way more money."
The No. 2 U.S. satellite television company already owned significant wireless licenses, but has long kept its plans for the spectrum under wraps.
Following standard procedure, FCC officials said they would scrutinize the details of legal and financial ties of those separate companies to Dish and other corporations to ensure their independent operations.
Ergen said he believed Dish would prevail in the matter, noting that the designated entity structure has been attacked many times since it was instituted in 1994. He added that all five FCC commissioners chose not to limit the discount available to designated entities.
"I don't believe you can change the rules and move the goal post after the auction," he said. "I think we followed the rules. I think there's some sour grapes."
The Dish chief said the company will get in the wireless business in some form or fashion, but was not exactly sure how yet.