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What Amazon Can Get From Dish Depends on How Much It's Willing to Gamble

Over the years, Dish Network Corp. (DISH) CEO Charlie Ergen has spent billions stockpiling a giant horde of wireless spectrum in spite of having no network to use it on, wagering that someone will value it enough to strike a favorable deal with Dish, if not buy the satellite TV provider outright.

Jeff Bezos, no stranger to making big, expensive bets himself, is reportedly open to an alliance that could allow Ergen to finally receive some kind of payoff for his massive gamble. But just what kind of payoff depends on whether Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is ready to spend the billions needed to start offering soup-to-nuts mobile services plans to U.S. Prime subscribers. Or if, as is more likely, Bezos has more modest ambitions.

The Wall Street Journal reports Bezos and Ergen have discussed an alliance through which a Dish network financed in part by Amazon would be used to provide wireless services for one subset of Amazon customers or another. Sources caution "no deal is imminent," and that it's "unclear" if one will be inked.

Among the reported possibilities: Amazon would help finance Dish's existing efforts to build a relatively cheap "5G-capable" network for IoT devices. A more ambitious option: Amazon would help bankroll a network that would let it give Prime members the chance to "pay a little more a month for a connectivity or phone plan." A third option still is for Amazon to "offer a one-way broadcast signal for Amazon Prime Video on a slice of Dish's airwaves."

An IoT network deal would give Amazon cheap connectivity for its Prime Air...


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