Today’s Dish Network Q1 earnings call took an unexpected turn into Whoville when chairman Charlie Ergen compared T-Mobile to the Grinch. The comparison came up when discussing the “Uncarrier’s” decision to go ahead with its CDMA shutdown, a move that will potentially see millions of Dish’s Boost Mobile customers losing service at the beginning of next year. Ergen made no secret what he thinks of the move: “They’ve become the Grinch.” He went on to add, “the Uncarrier’s become the uncaring carrier.”
Dish Network acquired Boost as a condition of the Sprint / T-Mobile merger with the intention of positioning Dish to take Sprint’s place as the US’s fourth wireless carrier. A year later, the company faces a major setback following T-Mobile’s announcement that it plans to shut down the CDMA network many Boost customers use by the beginning of next year.
“The Uncarrier’s become the uncaring carrier”
Dish has issued statements warning that the consequences to its business would be dire, and recently asked the California Public Utilities Commission reopen its investigation of the merger. The company’s wireless business hasn’t been looking rosy even without considering the impending shutdown; it continued to lose subscribers with a net decrease of 161,000 last quarter, which is around half of the 363,000 it lost in the previous quarter.
Ergen has previously voiced his disappointment in the timing of the shutdown, calling it anti-competitive, but he went a step further on this morning’s investor call with his Grinch metaphor, describing T-Mobile’s move as “heartless.” But he puts a hopeful spin on the metaphor, noting that the Grinch ended up giving back all of the toys he took from the Whos, and his heart grew three sizes that day. Ergen says the comparison was inspired by recently reading the book to his granddaughter, and that rather than the character’s trademark green color, he “kept seeing a magenta Grinch.”