Dish Network today said it will issue its third 5G Request for Proposal (RFP), this one centered on the physical work involved in building a nationwide 5G network using parts of its vast spectrum holdings.
Dish's latest RFP is centered on finding vendors to do things like obtaining the necessary cell sites and construction permits, collecting the equipment for the network, and actually climbing the cell towers to install the antennas.
"We're building a first-of-its kind standalone 5G network and want to employ a diversity of expertise from partners large and small," Dish's EVP of wireless operations, Jeff McSchooler, said in a release. "We'll build upon the existing relationships we have with deployment vendors from our NB-IoT buildout, while seeking local, regional and national vendors that can apply their strengths to increase the speed and efficiency of our 5G network deployment."
Dish earlier this year promised the FCC that, by June 14, 2023, it will deploy a nationwide 5G network covering at least 70% of the US population with download speeds of at least 35 Mbit/s, using at least 15,000 5G cell sites.
Dish has said that it could spend roughly $10 billion constructing its 5G network, though a wide range of analysts have predicted it will cost the company much more to do so, considering Verizon spends almost twice that every year on the development and maintenance of its own wireless network.
The announcement of Dish's new RFP follows the company's request for network equipment vendors in July and its request for software and project management vendors in September. Ericsson was the equipment vendor for Dish's now-halted NB-IoT network, but the company hasn't yet announced any 5G vendors.
Dish's 5G efforts stem from the company's agreement this summer to purchase spectrum, customers and MVNO access from T-Mobile for $5 billion. That deal was geared toward securing Department of Justice approval for T-Mobile's proposed merger with Sprint by setting up Dish to replace Sprint as the nation's fourth-largest wireless network provider.
However, the entire transaction -- including Dish's promises to the FCC to build a 5G network -- remains threatened by a lawsuit seeking to block T-Mobile's merger with Sprint filed by a group of mostly Democratic state attorneys general earlier this summer. That case is set to go to trial in December, and many expect some kind of resolution -- either a settlement or the collapse of the merger -- to happen sometime that month.
Despite Dish's new agreement with T-Mobile -- and its pledge to build a 5G network with the spectrum licenses it has been collecting for the better part of a decade -- some analysts remain skeptical that the company will ultimately put its spectrum to use in a 5G network. Instead, some analysts believe Dish will eventually cash out of the wireless industry by selling its spectrum to wireless operators like Verizon, Internet giants like Amazon or Google or cable companies like Comcast or Charter.