Is Dish Really Ready to Be a 5G Player?

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen is the founder of a satellite TV provider, but these days he's better known for the enigma around the company's holdings of low- and mid-band spectrum. The industry has long wondered whether Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) will use the spectrum or try to sell it. (See Time May Have Run Out for Dish Buyout.)

A research note from MoffettNathanson LLC Wednesday, however, may shine new light on Dish's spectrum situation. This after Ergen gave a keynote at the Wireless Infrastructure Industry Association’s Connect (X) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As the analysts note, Ergen now says he wants to use it, not lose it:

    Perhaps the biggest and most important takeaway is that Ergen sounds genuinely committed to a build-not-sell plan for his spectrum. The notion that Dish actually plans to build a network is underscored by Ergen's disclosure -- we believe for the first time -- that Dish has begun to enter into real, and long-term, tower lease commitments.

The concept is that Dish would initially build a network to support machine-to-machine communications, using the narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) LTE specification apparently over AWS-3 mid-band spectrum. It can't use its 600MHz low-band until July 2020, Ergen said at the conference.

The chairman says that Dish will spend around $1 billion on deploying the Internet of Things-focused (IoT) network, and "more than $10 billion" on a 5G network. Although even these expectations seem low for a greenfield operator breaking into the wireless industry.

"As everyone (seemingly) knows, Ergen is a consummate poker player," the analysts state in their note. "So perhaps all of this is simply a way to force the issue of a spectrum sale before he enters into even more tower leases and before his FCC buildout deadlines expire."

Particulary as the demand for low-band 600MHz bandwidth may have become more urgent in the US with the dawn of the 5G era. (See America: A Tale of at Least Two 5Gs.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 5/24/2018 | 12:38:16 PM
A ploy? get the 600MHz price up as big red or blue really starts Jonesin'?
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