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Blockbuster Eyeing Mobile Phone Service?

7 Dec, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Dish Network-owned rental chain has quietly begun selling smartphones on its website

Blockbuster LLC has quietly begun selling smartphones and service plans on its website — a movie some observers believe means parent Dish Network is serious about entering the wireless business.

A banner link at Blockbuster.com showcases the entire line of Samsung Galaxy S phones with additional links to Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint. Consumers can also refill prepaid airtime minutes, purchase service plans, check upgrade eligibility, accessories and customer service.

The offering suggests Englewood, Colo.-based Blockbuster’s 850 stores nationwide could soon be a retail launch pad for Dish’s probable foray into wireless service. Dish currently sells satellite service bundled with free three month access to Blockbuster @Home streaming/disc rental service at Blockbuster stores.

Dish founder Charlie Ergen has oft mentioned entering the wireless market — scuttlebutt the charismatic chairman of the satellite TV operator backed up by acquiring 40 MHz of MSS S-band spectrum in the 2 GHz band. Ergen said Dish wants to launch an LTE Advanced network on the spectrum by 2016 if the FCC allows terrestrial services.

Ergen, who also advocates Dish and DirecTV merge into a singular satellite entity similar to what Sirius and XM Satellite Radio did years ago, has said in fiscal calls with analysts that he won’t go into the wireless business without a partner. And, any move into the space would only occur after the FCC rules how he can use his spectrum.

“If it makes sense and we have a high likelihood of success in that business plan, then we're going to do that,” Ergen told analysts Nov. 6. “We're not going to get in the business just to get in the business. We're going to get into a business because the FCC has allowed us, as a new entrant, to have the technical flexibility to get in the business and we find some people who are like-minded in where we want to go in terms of partnerships.”

A Blockbuster representative was not immediately available for comment.


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