Dish hits 70% 5G coverage target, but more work lies ahead

The 70% milestone had been expected. All eyes are now on Dish's 2025 coverage target and financial recovery.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

June 15, 2023

2 Min Read
Dish hits 70% 5G coverage target, but more work lies ahead
Dish Network is building a nationwide network based on open RAN technology. (Source: Dish)

Dish Network was able to announce a rare bit of good news on Thursday: It finally met its requirement to cover over 70% of the US population – some 240 million people – with its 5G network, a requirement it had to meet in June 2023.

You could almost hear the champagne corks popping at the operator, which has faced some obstacles in recent months, to put it mildly. Building a nationwide US network from scratch would be hard enough. Dish is doing it with largely unproven methods as it is adopting the "open" radio access network (RAN) approach.

According to Dish, it has launched over 15,000 5G sites and also now provides its voice over new radio (VoNR) service to more than 70 million people (or 20% of the population).

New Street's Jonathan Chaplin welcomed both aspects of the announcement as a "positive step for Dish's network economics." For example, Dish customers "have to date typically had to rely on the MVNOs for all usage in markets lacking VoNR, because of the difficulty of hand offs between Dish's 5G standalone network and the other carrier networks," Chaplin said.

Furthermore, while customers can access Dish's network covering 70% of the US through Dish's Project Genesis, Chaplin noted that they can also access the network in over 50 markets nationwide if they have a compatible device on Boost Mobile or Boost Infinite, meaning Boost customers "can now actually roam onto Dish's own network in many markets."

Next stop: 75% coverage by June 2025

However, the operator may be keeping its fizz on ice for now as even more difficult challenges lie ahead. For instance, its next target – covering 75% of each of its spectrum license areas with 5G, by June 2025 – is reckoned to be much harder. Analysts have previously said Dish will need another 15,000 cell towers – and an additional $2 billion to $3 billion – to reach that goal. Dish – which is struggling financially – may not be able to easily raise the cash needed to reach its June 2025 coverage targets.

Chaplin's overall assessment was commensurately sober.

"We have been writing for the last several months that Dish would reach [the 70% coverage] milestone, and we think the catalyst is well understood by the market. As such, while we regard the announcement as positive, it is likely to have a limited impact on investor views of the credit or equity beyond the clearing of an overhang," he said.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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