If you have seen DISH Network in the news recently, chances are you also heard the phrase “5G” in the same conversation. That’s because DISH, as one of the largest spectrum holders in the country, is under a tight FCC deadline to use that spectrum before they are forced to forfeit it, a scenario that would cost the broadcasting giant billions of dollars. Their plan? Use all that spectrum to build a massive 5G network.
So, does DISH have a 5G network? Not yet, but co-founder Charlie Ergen insists that it is coming. In a recent keynote appearance at the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), a trade association for the nation’s smaller wireless network operators, Ergen spoke about DISH Network’s plans. “We’re really, really, really committed” to building a wireless network, including an eventual 5G network, said Ergen. “There’s no guarantee [of success]. We may fail. But you don’t know until you swing the bat…Failure is not an option. So that’s our attitude.”
At that same speaking engagement, Ergen took the time to more specifically outline the products DISH plans on selling, and to whom those products will be targeted. Surprising man, Ergen made it clear that DISH had no intention of selling their 5G network to smartphone users, thus avoiding competing with other major players like Verizon and AT&T in their space. Rather, DISH plans on selling their 5G network to companies that offer internet of things (IoT) services like manufacturing and robotics.
In addition to a 5G network, DISH is looking to sell fixed wireless services, much like the ones Verizon and Starry have begun offering to urban areas. In order to avoid that competition, DISH is focusing on a different target market: rural areas.
DISH has until March of 2020 to utilize their spectrum holdings, though the FCC has designed a series of check-ins along the way that have their own deadlines that DISH must meet to show progress. These 5G and fixed wireless service plans sound nice, and it is great to see Ergen so optimistic about their implementation. However, DISH still has a lot of ground left to cover, and a lot of hurdles to face before they can actually launch those services.
In the meantime, DISH will continue to work on growing its popular Sling TV streaming service as they bleed traditional satellite subscribers year over year. DISH knows that the broadcasting space is changing and has a plan to remain valuable in this future industry. Now they just need to execute on that plan.