Over the last decade or so, DISH Network has been accumulating loads of spectrum from different spectrum auctions over the years. However, DISH Network doesn’t have a wireless network. The company had planned to build one, and/or purchase either Sprint or T-Mobile in the process. But none of that has worked, and it now has all this spectrum and still no wireless network. Which has forced the FCC to question DISH Network on its plans for this spectrum. This is because, as a condition of being in the spectrum auction, you have a time frame in which you need to deploy that spectrum, of which, DISH has not done.
Now, back in February of this year, DISH had announced that it was going to spend $500 million to $1 billion through 2020 on building the “first phase” of its wireless network. DISH said it was going to do this by deploying a NB-IOT network at first, and then eventually build out an entire 5G network later on. This is because standards for a 5G network have not been finalized yet, and DISH doesn’t want to waste time and money on building a 5G network that may not meet the standards for 5G. Now in May, DISH’s CEO Charlie Ergen, attended the WIA trade show and stated that “we’re now going to spend at least $10 billion or more on a 5G network. We don’t have that kind of capital on our balance sheet today”. Ergen says that DISH plans to look like a startup in the wireless industry, which is the same thing it did when it entered the satellite TV business.
DISH has long wanted to get into the wireless space, it even attempted to purchase Sprint before SoftBank swooped in and took it from them. DISH then, reportedly, attempted to buy T-Mobile, but those talks also fell through. There was talk that DISH would license out its spectrum to other carriers, in exchange for allowing them to use that network as an MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network Operator. That’s the same contract that both Comcast and Charter Communications did with Verizon to license its spectrum to Big Red several years ago, and it only activated the MVNO part of that contract in 2017 and 2018, respectively. But now it looks like DISH is looking to build a 5G network. What will be interesting is whether or not the FCC will fine DISH for not complying with the rules in a timely manner.
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