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DISH Wireless Makes Progress on 5G Network Build

“We’re just going to go do it.” 

This is what DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen had to say in regards to what the skeptics are saying about DISH’s future in the wireless industry. DISH is making progress on its open radio access network (RAN) in the US but they’ve still got a long road ahead of them. 

DISH was tasked by the FCC to build a 5G network that covers 70% of the US by 2023 or face a hefty multi-million dollar fine. The Denver-based company still needs to get through RF planning, site acquisition, permitting, and actual gear installation but it appears as if all of that will come together by the end of 2020. 

According to Ergen, they’ve got a strong team and no major barriers are standing in their way, they’ve just got to get the work done. The company has said that its 5G network is expected to cost around $10 billion and hasn’t wavered from that estimate. 

“There’s nothing that stops us from building…the best network in the United States,” Ergen said during DISH’s second-quarter earnings call on Friday. He continued, “it’s really execution… We’re not reinventing anything,” but it’s worth noting that DISH is going to use more modern technology than its competitors. 

“We’re just going to go do it. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it, externally, because everybody’s going to be skeptical,” Ergen said. 

As DISH builds out their network, they’re seeking top-vendors such as VMware, Altiostar, Fujitsu, and Mavenir to help build out DISH’s standalone 5G network using cloud-native, open RAN architecture. 

DISH became an official carrier in July 2020 when they closed a $1.4 billion deal to purchase Boost Mobile from T-Mobile. The deal gave them 9 million subscribers and with the recent acquisition of Ting Mobile and its 271K+ subscribers, DISH is already off to a good start. The acquisition of Ting Mobile customers came from a decision to use their parent, Tucows’ Mobile Service Enabler (MSE) solutions. 

As part of the deal between Sprint and T-Mobile, DISH was permitted to use T-Mobile’s network in an MVNO arrangement so they could continue to serve Boost Mobile customers while building out their network. DISH is currently in talks with two companies including three of the biggest public companies and second-tier vendors. 

Though it seems to be positive news all around for DISH, there are still some skeptics out there including MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett. In a recent research note for investors, he had this to say, “They still haven’t started materially building,” he said. “And they still haven’t found a strategic partner. They still haven’t gone to the capital markets for financing. And they still haven’t changed their CapEx guidance for wireless for this year— a paltry $250 to $500M, excluding capitalized interest. Nor have they changed their longer-term guidance of $10B to build a virtualized network, a number that we no longer have to caveat by saying we don’t believe.”

Despite Moffett’s analyst, DISH is still moving forward with its plans. New Street Research expects DISH to bid in the C-band auction plus the CBRS that’s currently going on. Analyst Jonathan Chaplin wrote, “we don’t think they will be bidding just to drive up prices and annoy the other market participants; we think they will be bidding to win.”

New Street is predicting that DISH will spend about $6 billion primarily on C-band licenses. “We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them spend more; it will all come down to whether they can find the funding. We expect they will have an anchor tenant locked in for the network by the time the C-band auction kicks off; that tenant or partner will have a strong interest in seeing Dish win more licenses; whether they fund Dish directly, or DISH raises capital in the public markets, we suspect they will have the capital they need to bid and win by the time the auction wraps up.”

When on the company’s earnings call, Ergen was non-committal when asked about the C-band auctions. 

Source: Fierce Wireless

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