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Dish reportedly begins leasing towers for 5G

In yet another indication that Dish Network is serious about its 5G ambitions, a Wall Street analyst firm is reporting that the company may have already signed hundreds of leases for cell towers to hold its 5G equipment.

The analysts at Wall Street research firm Wells Fargo reported that one unnamed contact said Dish has already signed hundreds of leases for towers. Reporting from a recent National Association of Real Estate Investment Trust (NAREIT) event, the analysts noted that participants "appeared confident that Dish was going to show up [in the cell tower industry] in a meaningful way."

The Wells Fargo analysts are not alone in their view on Dish.

"We came away from our ... meetings with the sense that Dish will indeed be a real and viable competitor and is working through the final planning stages before hitting the ground hard to meet the FCC June 2023 coverage deadlines," wrote the Wall Street analysts at Raymond James of their recent VISTA (Virtual Infrastructure: Speaking Telecom Assets) conference. "We expect Dish is focused on closing the purchase of Boost (still expected by July 1) and will then move onto network deployment."

And based on conversations with executives from cell tower giant American Tower, the Wall Street analysts at Cowen reported that Dish isn't expected to conduct much network buildout work in 2021, but that the "majority of Dish's buildout" will begin in 2022. And, citing comments from American Tower, the analysts also noted that Dish would likely need more than the 10,000 to 15,000 cell tower sites Dish officials have publicly cited for the company's planned 5G network.

"All in, [American Tower] management was optimistic that the increased activity from T-Mobile combined with Dish's network buildout would drive upside," they wrote.

Dish, of course, inked an agreement with T-Mobile last year designed to position the company as a nationwide 5G wireless network operator. And now that T-Mobile has officially closed on its merger with Sprint – and is building out 5G as a result – all eyes have turned to Dish to see whether it will follow through on its end of the deal.

Already Dish has made additional steps into the wireless industry, from executive hirings to requests for proposals. Just this week the company said it hired Dave Mayo, a former T-Mobile executive, to head up its 5G network buildout.

The operator's next step would be to finalize the $1.4 billion purchase of roughly 10 million Boost prepaid customers from T-Mobile, subscribers Dish would manage as a T-Mobile MVNO. Next, the operator would begin building a 5G network.

Based on its deal with T-Mobile and the US Department of Justice, Dish is on the hook to cover 20% of the US population by June 2022 with 5G and 70% of the population starting in June 2023.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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