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DISH Spectrum Holdings and 5G Plans

Every day, millions of Americans and billions of others around the world watch videos, send messages and do tons of other activities all at the push of a button. We listen to various media outlets, we play video games, and we do it all because of radio frequencies known as spectrum.

Wireless spectrum bands are radio waves that can transfer data through the air between devices. While generations ago radio waves would only transmit what we know as traditional radio, the capabilities of these radio waves have evolved. Not all bands are the same but 5G is here to take advantage of several which are positioned to transfer faster download speeds, larger amounts of data, and all with the lowest lagging times possible.

DISH Network is no stranger to using wireless spectrum. The company made its name by transmitting satellite television to millions of subscribers. TV is still at the core of who DISH is but for years now, the satellite pay-TV giant has collected spectrum with the intent of entering the wireless industry. There were some false starts but after years of anticipation, DISH Wireless was born on July 1, 2020.

This allowed DISH to finally enter the wireless space and put to use its stockpile of wireless spectrum. Now, the company is focusing on creating the best nationwide 5G network in America. DISH’s spectrum holdings and its plans for 5G continue to coincide with a vision of a 5G network. A 5G network that delivers more options than the competition and grows with the needs of consumers over time.

DISH Wireless’ Spectrum Holdings Are Diverse

Creating a 5G network to compete with and surpass other major wireless providers takes creative solutions matched with the right technology. DISH is using its diverse spectrum holdings to provide a more comprehensive 5G network experience for customers. 5G is a broader term used for the fifth generation of wireless communication, but there are a lot of different forms of spectrum within this moniker that makes this communication possible.

Understanding how 5G works starts with understanding the different tiers of spectrum bands networks rely on for communication:

  • Low-band: The best coverage but the lowest speeds and capacity. (Spectrum bands under the 1 GHz band.)
  • Mid-band: A happy medium in terms of coverage, speeds, and capacity. (Spectrum bands fall between the 1 GHz and 6 GHz bands.)
  • High-band (mmWave): The fastest download speeds wireless has ever known with tremendous data capacity to match. Sadly, mmWave struggles traveling anywhere and cannot penetrate through walls yet. (Spectrum bands that are higher than the 6 GHz band are considered high-band spectrum, however, those reaching between 30 GHz and 300 GHz bands can be considered mmWave spectrum.)
Spectrum BandFrequency RangeApplication
Low-bandBands below 1 GHzA solid foundation to keep more users connected to 5G.
Mid-bandBands between 1 GHz and 6 GHzCapable of powering things such as automated vehicles, IoT, improving fixed wireless, etc.
High-bandBands higher than 6 GHzPowerful speed and high data capacity allow for automation, innovative solutions, and seamless connectivity.
mmWaveBands that reach between 30 GHz and 300 GHzThe pinnacle of wireless communication allows for extremely complex functions including remote surgeries, enhanced XR functions, and more.

Each band tier serves its purpose. DISH Wireless is using an innovative technique known as versatile spectrum. The technique gets the most out of each band by using them simultaneously to handle network traffic. This allows the network to avoid getting overloaded, more data capacity, and a better user experience. Larger markets require more spectrum due to the increase in the number of devices and data transfers they face. By implementing versatile spectrum, DISH Wireless is eliminating congestion among other issues while maximizing the speed subscribers receive.

DISH is not only responsible for the 5G network it is building but is also the parent company of Boost Mobile, Ting Wireless, and Republic Wireless. Thanks to its initial deal with T-Mobile and a newer agreement with AT&T, its mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are guaranteed coverage even as DISH continues to roll out its network and beyond. There are also additional spectrum bands DISH is awaiting to purchase from T-Mobile on the 800 MHz ESMR band which can be used for both 4G and 5G applications. The following are DISH’s spectrum holdings in various bands which it is using to create its 5G network:

Radio FrequencyBand NumberTier of 5G Spectrum
600 MHz DDn71Low-band spectrum
700 MHz Lower E Blockn29Low-band spectrum
800 MHz ESMRn26Low-band spectrum
1.7/2.1 GHz AWS*n66/n70Mid-band spectrum
3.5 GHz CBRSn48Mid-band spectrum
47 GHz V-bandn262mmWave spectrum
Source: DISH Wireless Wikipedia
*DISH has spectrum holdings in AWS-3, AWS-4, and AWS-H. It has combined these unpaired spectrum holdings to better serve its needs.

DISH Wireless is Building America’s Most Innovative 5G Network

It’s impossible to mention the 5G network DISH Wireless is creating without speaking about innovation. It is at the heart of everything DISH is doing to bring its 5G network to life. Of the four major wireless providers in the country, DISH Wireless is the only one to rely fully on 5G. There is no previous infrastructure for DISH Wireless or clients to maintain and the company is building its 5G network from the ground up. A 5G network that is developing features that are impossible on networks using components from previous generations, including 4G LTE. Take a closer look at some of the most intriguing features and characteristics DISH Wireless is bringing to its 5G network:

Open RAN

Bringing such a network coast-to-coast takes time, planning, and collaboration. DISH Wireless continues to stay the course by adopting an Open RAN approach which not only invites collaboration but fosters an ecosystem for vendors to thrive in. It is because of this feature that we see names such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Oracle, Nokia, VMware, Fujitsu, and more attached to the project. The best solutions are working in harmony in less time for a fraction of the cost. DISH Wireless is building a better 5G network that respects competition while inviting collaborative solutions.

Versatile Spectrum

The practice of using the different tiers of spectrum bands is known as versatile spectrum. DISH Wireless is using this technique in its 5G network to help in a variety of ways:

  • Lower congestion.
  • Improve network management.
  • Create a better user experience.
  • Increase data capacity through native carrier aggregation.

Each band of the 5G spectrum will work together as best needed to provide more data capacity. By combining the bands, DISH Wireless ensures a better 5G network where all of its spectrum works together towards a common goal.

Network Slicing

Different users have different needs for the reason they connect to the Internet. A home in rural Nebraska will have a far different approach to the Internet than a bank in downtown Los Angeles. Priorities and needs can also change over time. As companies evolve, so too should their Internet. DISH Wireless is providing a unique approach to connectivity through network slicing.

By using network slicing, DISH Wireless can take a portion of its 5G network and create a private end-to-end 5G network for a specific purpose. These 5G network “slices” can also be changed over time to fit the needs of subscribers as they change. What’s even more impressive, is that all of this is done without disrupting DISH’s overall 5G network traffic.

Cloud-native

Cloud computing is helping various tech services perform at a higher rate with more to offer its users. 5G is no different. By creating a cloud-native 5G network, DISH Wireless will provide the structure necessary to sustain a large number of applications. Remember, 5G is making the impossible possible. This widespread application for 5G in far-reaching industries. Using cloud computing is allowing these applications to perform at their best. Both AWS and VMware are playing important roles in hosting DISH’s 5G network in the cloud.

Fixed Wireless

DISH’s commitment to improving fixed wireless using 5G for improved speeds will benefit several markets. Today, high-speed Internet from a reliable source may come without any thought for many urban markets. However, things are different in rural markets which can struggle to find quality Internet connections due to a lack of investment and/or competition. DISH Wireless is changing this with its dedicated focus on delivering 5G-powered fixed wireless Internet to millions of Americans.

DISH Wireless Continues to Collect and Deploy 5G Spectrum

As impressive as DISH’s spectrum holdings may be, the company is far from done. In 2020, DISH Wireless spent $912.9 million at the CBRS auction ranking as the second-highest bidder for spectrum licenses. It continued its investment in the C-band auction later that same year with much more modest spending between $2.5 and $3 million. In 2021, the FCC is planning a mid-band spectrum auction for the 3.45 GHz band. There are still questions surrounding how this spectrum can be used as it usually requires federal clearance and coordination with government entities, so it remains to be seen how much participation DISH and other wireless companies will provide. Regardless, it is an opportunity for the wireless carrier to acquire even more spectrum to add to its holdings.

The deployment of DISH’s spectrum holdings is already underway nationwide for DISH Wireless. Las Vegas, Nevada, was the first officially announced location in 2021 with its 5G network expected to be up and running before the end of the year. Orlando and Washington D.C. soon followed after LinkedIn posts showing teams for DISH Wireless working in the respective areas were found. Eventually, the United States as a whole will receive coverage from DISH. It’s a matter of when not if.

“We have activity underway coast to coast, border to border right now across the country. It is a construction project, and dealing with inventory, supply chain,” said Executive VP and Chief Commercial Officer for DISH Wireless, Stephen Bye. “It is fun to see the sites come on air.” 

Future auctions appear to be underway as demand for mid-band and other spectrum bands continues. The U.S. government is also pushing to surpass China and other countries in the race for 5G and 5G itself is lending itself to provide more entities than ever the opportunity to use spectrum as they see fit. DISH Wireless is one of the founding members of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition. The objective of the coalition is to have the FCC change its rules surrounding the 12 GHz spectrum band. A band that satellites, including DISH’s satellites, use, and a band that DISH already bought the rights to years ago for use. The rules do not permit the 12 GHz spectrum DISH Wireless purchased to be used for 5G, although the bands are capable of doing the job.

There are powerful entities both for and against the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition’s plans, but DISH is thinking even further than the current generation. 5G is still years away from reaching maturity, but as technology gets faster, so too do future advancements. DISH Wireless is arguing that unleashing 12 GHz is not only good for 5G but is helpful for the inevitable arrival of 6G. It should be noted that 6G is still very early in its development stage and nothing substantial should come about for at least a decade. But this is just another example of how DISH continues to push innovation. Whether it is distributing the best channel packages in satellite television or putting its spectrum holdings to good use, DISH continues to raise the bar.

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