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Dish Network to bid on wireless spectrum

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Satellite television distributor Dish Network said it plans to participate in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction — a move that could position the pay-TV provider to offer mobile services.

In a meeting with the FCC Monday, Dish signaled its intentions to "participate meaningfully" in bidding for a slice of airwaves that the agency plans to allocate for high-speed mobile services.

A spokesman for Dish Network declined to comment on the regulatory filing.

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Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen has talked about the value of the company's existing wireless spectrum at a time of increasing video consumption on portable devices. He told investors during the company's first-quarter earnings call that communications companies need to do more than just provide pay-TV services, offering more comprehensive services that would include broadband Internet and mobile.

"That's probably the one weak link that we have in the sense that we really only play in the satellite broadband market today, which is more of a niche market," Ergen said during the May call with analysts. Dish is in a bind, in some ways, because it can't offer consumers pay-TV bundles with high-speed broadband service like its cable competitors (and soon rival DirecTV). While Dish could conceivably build a wireless network to provide high-speed broadband service, it would be costly and time-consuming.

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Some analysts have been critical of Dish Network for accumulating spectrum without actually putting it to work. There has been speculation that Ergen has been gobbling up wireless airwaves so Dish will be a more attractive acquisition for an existing wireless carrier.

Meanwhile, the competition isn't standing still.

Dish's satellite TV rival, DirecTV, agreed in May to be acquired by AT&T in a deal that would give the combined company the ability to distribute content across mobile, video and the Internet platforms. The $48.5 billion offer is subject to regulatory approval.

Dish made a failed attempt last year to buy Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest wireless carrier, behind Verizon and AT&T. But it was unsuccessful in winning the prize, which went to Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank.

—By Dawn Chmielewski, Re/code.net

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

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