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Dish pushes Boost Infinite launch back to Q1 of 2023

Earlier this year, it was looking as though Boost Infinite would be launching this fall, but now it’s going to miss the all-important fourth quarter and is looking to make a wider commercial debut in the first quarter of 2023.

Dish has launched Boost Infinite internally and for those users, “it’s still a pretty good experience, but we’ve got some work to do,” said Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. Boost Infinite is being positioned as a full postpaid offering with an assortment of devices. Initially, distribution will be largely focused on digital but then move to national retail, according to John Swieringa, president and COO for Dish Wireless.

While customers initially will be not be using Dish’s own network, the launch will be using Dish’s own OSS/BSS; currently, it’s on T-Mobile’s system, and it’s important to get that on its own system, Ergen said. Boost Infinite will be launched as an MVNO using AT&T’s network, but “you will start to see Band 70 devices in that portfolio,” as well as with Boost Mobile, Swieringa said. As they flip on voice over 5G New Radio (VoNR) in more markets, Boost Infinite will start using Dish’s own network as well, he said. The same applies to Boost Mobile.

Dish has over 10,000 towers now constructed that reach over 35% of the population; the next milestone is to cover 70% of the population. It continues at a pace of about 1,000 towers going live each month. The build includes Dish’s 600 MHz spectrum and other frequencies.

Mixing prepaid & postpaid

Ergen emphasized the mix of prepaid and postpaid. “I think you should assume that retail wireless at Boost includes both prepaid and postpaid,” he said.

In fact, he said, there’s not really that much difference between prepaid and postpaid. In both cases, the customer pays at the time of activation, although postpaid usually requires a credit check and prepaid doesn’t.

However, postpaid is seen as the more lucrative business.

As an outsider coming into the wireless business, Ergen reiterated that a postpaid customer is “way more profitable” than a prepaid customer, and he said that the U.S. is the only country where prepaid is cheaper for consumers than postpaid.

The postpaid business is not nearly as competitive as the prepaid business. “It’s not even close,” he said. “There’s just a bigger opportunity there” in postpaid, the idea being that if they can offer a better product at a lower price, they can be successful.

Is Boost getting sold?

The question on a lot of analysts’ minds is the ownership status of Boost and if or how that might change.

Some preliminary discussions are happening between Dish and an Ergen-affiliated SPAC that could potentially mean a sale of a portion of the retail wireless business.

The board has had discussions with the SPAC but they’re also looking at other things they could do with the retail wireless business, Ergen said. “I think everybody’s ahead of their skis on maybe the SPAC discussions,” he said.

“We think at Dish that retail wireless belongs in what we’re doing,” he said.

Small gains

It’s not a very big number, but the 1,000 wireless retail subscribers that Dish posted in the third quarter represents a big change from the prior eight quarters.

One of Dish’s goals was to stabilize the retail wireless business, and while it didn’t do as well as expected from an EBITDA perspective, it was successful in shifting from a loss of 100,000 subscribers each quarter to a “very, very small gain,” Ergen said.

The net gain of 1,000 doesn’t count the 139,000 that Dish got from T-Mobile when it moved those over; they represented all Boost-branded customers of former Sprint affiliates Shentel and Swiftel, as well as Boost-branded customers who were previously part of the California Public Utilities Commission CARE program.

Dish ended Q3 with 8.01 million retail wireless subscribers. Wireless churn in Q3 was 4.28% compared with 4.39% in the prior quarter. ARPU was $37.64 in Q3 compared with $37.90 in Q2.

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