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Can DISH Wireless Save The C-Band Delays?

Can DISH Wireless Save C-Band Delays?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently sounded alarm bells over its growing concerns that 5G deployments will cause interference with some sensitive aircraft electronics. Because of this, AT&T and Verizon have both agreed to pause their C-band network rollouts until the FAA has time to assess any potential impacts on aviation safety. This delay begs the question, would DISH Network consider leasing some of its spectrum holdings to AT&T and Verizon? 

On DISH’s third-quarter earnings call, DISH co-founder and CEO Charlie Ergen said “yes” he’d be interested in leasing out parts of its vast spectrum real estate as it works to build out its 5G network. Ergen also pointed out that DISH has always been very open about its interest in the wholesale business. He noted, “we do think there are other interested parties in leasing capacity,” and that they’ve already seen some interest in short-term leasing. 

DISH Network holds quite a bit of spectrum across the low, mid, and high-bands, many critics calling DISH “spectrum hoarders.” But this has proven fruitful for the new wireless carrier as spectrum leasing has been a popular option for wireless carriers over the past few years, especially when the pandemic hit. 

Verizon spent a whopping $45 billion during a C-band auction, signaling just how valuable the 3.7 GHz spectrum is because it’s deemed prime spectrum for 5G. Because of this C-band delay, Verizon needs to find some replacement, and DISH may hold the answer. 

During the Q3 earnings call, DISH was asked if the radios it’s deploying can be used for the 800 MHz band that has an option to buy from T-Mobile. Stephen Bye, DISH EVP, and Chief Commercial Officer said that they could use those radios if they decide to, “All the plumbing is in place,” with hardware and software, so all Dish has to do is activate those radios. Various carrier aggregation combinations also are being designed into the product to support that option,” he said. 

There were other exciting announcements on the earnings call, including DISH discussing its plan to launch its first 5G market in Las Vegas by the end of Q4 2021 with a commercial launch in Q1 2022. The company is still getting feedback from beta users and working on roaming and handover issues with T-Mobile. 

We’ll likely see a glimpse into DISH’s 5G network in Las Vegas for AWS’ re:Invent conference. Ergen said people will “probably get to experience a part of our network then.”

Construction is currently underway in 42 markets and counting. Per the merger agreement for T-Mobile and Sprint, DISH Wireless has to cover 20% of the population with 5G by June 2022 and 70% by 2023. 

The subject of the looming CDMA shutdown was also a topic of discussion on the earnings call. Even though T-Mobile granted an extension from January 2022 to March 2022, Ergen still believes that T-Mobile is the “Magenta Grinch.” 

DISH will still have well over 1 million customers on the CDMA network, “and if T-Mobile has their way, those customers will lose service on March 31,” he said. Based on T-Mobile’s testimony in California, he said that many wouldn’t even be able to make 911 calls.

“We look at it a little bit different than T-Mobile. We look at it for consumers first and say, why in the world do you want to disenfranchise customers? … We realize that T-Mobile is a for-profit company. But we play the long game, and we want to make sure that we’re taking care of consumers,” Ergen said.  

The CDMA shutdown will affect more economically disadvantaged customers on Boost Mobile, “which is why we’re not able to convert them. It just seems like the wrong thing to do… I would have preferred to work with T-Mobile,” he said, adding, “we’re not against the CDMA shutdown.”

However, “that’s something they’re going to have to live with their whole life. They’re going to have to live with the fact that they’re anti-consumer,” he said, suggesting the January 1 date was a “false deadline” and the March 31 date also may be a false deadline. “We’ll continue to go as fast as we can, but it’s disappointing. I’m disappointed in T-Mobile, and I wish they’d taken a little bit longer-term approach to it.” 

Source: Fierce Wireless

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