Last updated: June 8, 2012 - 8:35am
Dish Network is spending billions of dollars to build a cellular broadband network to compete with wireless carriers. The venture has forced Charlie Ergen to go "totally back to school" on wireless, he says.
He has done market research with what he calls the "Waffle House poll," visiting Waffle House outlets around the country and asking customers how they use their phones and watch television. He also chats up taxi drivers and passengers in airport lounges. Ergen's plan is to offer mobile data using the latest-generation high-speed broadband, including television broadcasts to mobile devices. It is an effort to catch up to cable operators and phone companies, which unlike satellite firms offer bundles of services, including video, voice and Internet. Ergen says he analyzes Dish's prospects of success the way he thinks about the odds in one of his favorite card games. "We're not going to do something that we can't achieve. It goes back to playing blackjack: If we have a 51% chance of doing it, then we are going to move ahead. If we have a 49% chance of being successful, we're not." In this case, he thinks he has an 80% chance of success if the Federal Communications Commission approves a spectrum waiver. He brushes off the notion he'll flip the spectrum to another carrier for a windfall profit, though Bernstein estimates the spectrum, if sold, could be worth about $8 billion, or 67% of Dish's current $12 billion market value. Ergen points out that any sale would have to be approved by the FCC and says that people just don't understand his entrepreneurial mind set.
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