DISH Network has quietly been buying spectrum over the past few years to enter the wireless market and it’s finally made its grand debut. Charlie Ergen, the co-founder, and chairman of DISH Network has been ambitiously investing in building out the nation’s first standalone 5G network. Though it appeared over the years that DISH has been hoarding over $20 billion worth of parts of the spectrum, they’re finally putting it to use.
All his hard work is paying off, as the mass amount of spectrum that DISH Network owns will position them favorably as they continue to build out DISH Wireless. DISH is aiming to be a more efficient network than AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile by building out a 5G network that’s supposed to be more sophisticated and has cost-effective technology. Right now, DISH owns about the same amount of low-band and mid-band spectrum as Verizon. DISH is expected to focus on the 600MHz low-band and 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum, similar to T-Mobile.
The move into the wireless world became official on July 1st when DISH Network purchased the nation’s second-largest MVNO, Boost Mobile, and instantly gained 9 million customers from T-Mobile for $1.4 billion. DISH’s 5G network isn’t ready for use, so DISH will continue to manage these customers on T-Mobile’s network until their network is ready.
It seems though Ergen is not done purchasing spectrum real estate just yet, with another major transaction in the works that’s expected to go through in 2023. The deal is worth $3.6 billion and is tied to selling more of Sprint’s assets. DISH will face a penalty of $72 million if the transaction is not closed and Ergen could back out of the deal at any time between now and 2023. It should also be noted that T-Mobile can lease back a portion of the spectrum as needed until 2025 following the closing of this deal.
The acquisition of the 13.5MHz of 800MHz spectrum comes from the initial agreement with T-Mobile and the DOJ from 2019, where DISH agreed to become the nation’s fourth wireless carrier. The licenses DISH is set to get from T-Mobile, cover the nationwide low-band that’s used by Sprint. This bit of spectrum is great for mass coverage, but the low-band is not as efficient as transmitting huge amounts of data. DISH’s initial 5G network will cover large areas including unserved rural communities.
DISH has already spent over $216 million in the three most recent FCC auctions for mmWave spectrum and DISH is among 250 entities that have been approved to bid in the FCC’s upcoming CBRS auction for the 3.5GHz spectrum. It’s also unknown whether DISH will add 3.7-4.2GHz C-band spectrum to their portfolio, the C-band spectrum auction is scheduled for December and Verizon is expected to be a big spender for that one.
Sources: Phone Arena & Light Reading