Dish Network co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen underscored the company’s commitment to building a 5G wireless network on today’s Q4 2020 earnings call. He restated the intention to bring 5G online in its first major cities by the end of Q3 2021 — that’s the period running from July through September — and was bullish on Dish’s ability to boost the US’s somewhat dismal global position in terms of wireless network offerings.
Ergen spent several minutes on today’s call recapping what the company has done so far in its network-building effort. With its acquisition of Boost Mobile last year, it’s currently offering prepaid service as an MVNO on T-Mobile’s network, but it has also been accumulating its own spectrum to make the move to a full-fledged carrier. That’s a good sign for wireless competition in the US; with Sprint no longer available as a choice, Dish is positioned to step up as a fourth major carrier option. And it kind of has to in order to satisfy the conditions of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger.
To that end, Dish made low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum purchases last year, and it’s estimated to have spent $2 billion in the recent C-band auction. With access to these different kinds of spectrum, Dish has the pieces of the so-called 5G “layer cake” that will help it establish fast service with wide coverage.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” Ergen said, stressing his confidence in the company’s ability to execute, despite the considerable risks. He didn’t stop there either; Ergen believes Dish can “help the United States actually start leading again in wireless.”
Maybe he’s right. There’s a big challenge ahead of Dish, but the company doesn’t face one of the challenges plaguing the major carriers right now: keeping 4G data flowing while adding 5G. This has led Verizon and AT&T, in particular, to turn to a technology called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, or DSS, with poor results. Sadly, the bar is quite low at the moment for US networks, which might help Dish get a running start.