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Dish chairman says mobile plans to take time to coalesce

By Sinead Carew

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said on Monday it could take months to finalize his plans to enter the wireless industry because of regulatory and technology complications, but his company has no intention of selling spectrum it spent billions acquiring.

The cable service provider received regulatory approval to use its spectrum for wireless services in December. But Dish has still not made clear whether it will build a wireless network on its own, or offer a service in partnership with other companies.

"We have multiple options," Ergen told Reuters after a press conference on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show.

While he would not say whether Dish would prefer to build its own network or enter a partnership, the executive was adamant he does not want to sell the spectrum - something some analysts had speculated might bring in a handsome profit for Dish.

"We don't want to sell the spectrum," he said. "We'd prefer to be in the wireless broadband business and make a difference to consumers."

Ergen said in November that he hoped to be able to announce his wireless plans about a month after the Federal Communications Commission ruled on the spectrum.

But the decision process was complicated by technology restrictions included in the FCC's ruling, and because of merger deals announced separately by potential partners, Sprint Nextel Corp and T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG.

Sprint is seeking approval to sell 70 percent of its shares to Japan's Softbank Corp. T-Mobile USA is looking for approval for a merger with smaller wireless rival MetroPCS Communications Inc.

"Their regulatory issues aren't settled as well," Ergen said of Sprint.

On the technology side, Ergen said Dish still has to work out details with the main global wireless standards-setting organizations before it can start to build its network.

"It's months, but hopefully its not years," Ergen said.

In the meantime, the company will work with its vendors on designing its network, he said.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Gary Hill and Chris Gallagher)

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