AT&T Eyeing Up Dish Network For Potential Acquisition?

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Shortly before the AT&T/T-Mobile merger came to its ignominious end, Dish Network CEO Joseph Clayton casually expressed his interest in a partnership with T-Mobile as a means of bringing wireless voice service to Dish customers.

Those plans may not pan out if AT&T has anything to do with it. A new report from Bloomberg indicates that AT&T is apparently so hard up for additional spectrum that they’re considering shelling out “the highest premium in more than a decade” to acquire the satellite TV provider and their spectrum holdings.

Clayton, ever the opportunist, seemed receptive to the possibility of at acquisition — he noted last week in an interview with Bloomberg West that the company is “open to all possible options.”

“We could be acquired, or we could be the acquirer,” he added.

Clayton’s original vision was to create a “national wireless network” comprised of video, voice, and data services. To that end, Clayton made it known that he would consider a partnership with companies like T-Mobile or Sprint to make it happen. They would get Dish’s spectrum holdings, and Dish would get their expertise in managing voice networks.

It’s questionable whether Dish would ever be able to offer those services if AT&T indeed acquires the company, as it would pose a credible threat to AT&T’s own portfolio of network services. Still, it seems clear that AT&T needs Dish more than Dish needs AT&T at this point.

Clayton seemed more than happy to forge partnerships with the smaller carriers in order make his network vision a reality, but without T-Mobile’s network support, AT&T may be facing a bumpy road when it comes to the rollout of their LTE network. It certainly doesn’t help that AT&T has to yield a portion of their spectrum holdings to Deutsche Telekom as a result of their very-public break up.

Meanwhile, rival Verizon’s LTE network continues to expand (albeit with a few hiccups), and Sprint is also preparing to light up their own around June of this year. Competition will only get stiffer for AT&T in the coming months, and it will take some bold moves for them to stay ahead of the curve. While not the most likely bedfellows, a Dish acquisition could nevertheless be just what the doctor ordered.