Dish Network is doubling down on its intention to launch its 5G network in major cities by September, The Verge reports. Since Dish acquired Boost Mobile last year, that puts the company in a unique position to compete with existing mobile carriers, and Ergen said during the company’s earnings call today that Dish can “help the United States actually start leading again in wireless.” Whatever that means.
As part of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, the Federal Communications Commission required T-Mobile to sell off some its holdings, which included Boost Mobile. (Virgin Mobile customers were moved to the Boost Mobile network ahead of the merger, since it was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sprint at the time.) Dish is also allowed to use T-Mobile’s network for the next seven years as it builds out its own wireless network. Basically, Dish’s goal seems to be turning Boost Mobile into the fourth largest wireless carrier in the US and provide 5G service, moving beyond the pre-paid plans it currently offers. Piggy-backing on T-Mobile’s network seems like it will help Dish fairly compete in the marketplace.
But Dish has also been steadily buying up wireless spectrum over the last several years, starting all the way back in 2013. It owns low, mid, and high-band spectrum, which is ideal for being able to offer customers fast, reliable 5G service, but it’s also awaiting the auction results of the coveted C-band spectrum. Those won’t be available until early next month.
The C-band spectrum is like the “holy grail” of wireless broadband spectrum. It’s a massive 280MHz of spectrum, encompassing nearly 5,700 mid-band licenses between 3.7GHz and 3.98GHz. There’s not as much traffic on these waves, and since there’s a lot of ‘em, every 5G wireless carrier has been vying for some airwave real estate.
Being the smallest carrier, Dish is estimated to have bid around $2 billion to grab as many pieces of the C-band as it can, according to Raymond James analysts, while the other major carriers who have already established their 5G networks could have bid between $11-$30 billion. Dish is definitely not going to be the size of T-Mobile or Verizon anytime soon, but more competition never hurts.