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Dish Network Is Dying. Can It Transform Into a 5G Company?

Dish Network

Dish Network’s future as a satellite TV operator-turned-wireless player still has a huge question mark.

But it appears that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen remains optimistic about the struggling company’s chances to make waves as a 5G provider.

Over the past decade-plus, Ergen spent $25 billion to purchase mobile spectrum to transform Dish Network into a phone company that may have the potential to compete with industry giants like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. And earlier this year, after netting a deal with Amazon, the company announced that it aims to be the world’s first telecoms company to run its service from the public cloud.

According to Ergen, per the Financial Times, Dish’s evolution into a telecoms company is largely propelled by “a paradigm shift in technology,” as cloud providers now have the next-generation capability to host servers and software.

“That technology is critical,” he told the paper. “If you’re too early, you’re roadkill but if you’re too late, you miss the window.”

Dish is aiming to prove that it can deploy a new 5G network at a fraction of the cost because it can construct and run its own data centers. If this becomes a reality, other major players in the industry will indeed have to take note.

Dish’s 5G network, which will launch in Las Vegas later this year, has already started taking customer sign-up requests.

“To the extent we are successful, others will follow,” Ergen said.

However, not all experts and analysts are on board with Dish’s ambitious plan to transform itself.

JP Morgan analyst Philip Cusick recently cut his recommendation in the company because of its highly uncertain path to becoming a profitable wireless phone provider.

“First, building a wireless network is very hard and there is a long history of new networks with coverage/quality problems in the first few years,” Cusick wrote.

“Second, we believe that Dish, with only ~114 MHz of spectrum, will struggle to succeed against carriers with two to three times that much, or be forced to buy substantially more spectrum in future auctions, which it doesn’t have funds for now,” he continued, adding that Dish already may be too far behind the established carriers to play catchup in the 5G race.

Dish did, though, help facilitate T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint last spring. Due to an agreement with federal regulators, the merging companies accepted the request to divest to Dish several spectrum licenses and the Boost Mobile prepaid brand. The companies also had to provide Dish with a seven-year-long wholesale arrangement to use T-Mobile’s network while launches its own.

The regulators’ goal was to preserve a wireless industry in the United States with four nationwide players.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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