Dish Network Corp. Chairmen Charlie Ergen gave a talk the other day at the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connect X conference. During his presentation he laid out a vague plan claiming that his company could spend $10 billion over the coming years to build out a nationwide 5G network. He calls this the second phase of the company's wireless construction build out.
The first phase of the build out is already underway. It involves the company spending $1 billion to deploy nationwide coverage for the internet-of-things (IOT) which will connect, machines, sensors and a variety of other devices together.
Will Dish Network Really Build Out A Full 5G Network?
The reason for all of this is that the Dish Network is currently sitting on roughly $40 billion worth of licensed wireless spectrum that it has accumulated over the years. If it doesn't use some of it in at least some capacity by the year 2020, it risks losing it. In the unlikely event of forfeiture, the company could lose billions having invested in spectrum it never used.
Some analysts believe that Dish Network could get an extension from the FCC to build out its network. Showing some signs of progress could allow for that. Per its current licensing agreements, it is supposed to build out a network that covers 70% of the areas that it holds licenses in.
If Dish does in fact build out a 5G wireless network, perhaps it will make the T-Mobile/Sprint merger easier to swallow. Dish does have a stake in Dish Mexico which runs an MVNO in conjunction with FreedomPop in that country. So it does have some experience in the wireless arena. However, Dish has never vocalized any intentions of becoming a wireless provider in the US.
A report in the Motley Fool, suggests that Dish could gain a lot from the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. Both Verizon and AT&T would be at a significant disadvantage compared to T-Mobile/Sprint when it comes to wireless spectrum. Dish could then be in a position to resell or license its spectrum to help AT&T and Verizon cover their deficits.
However, the more Dish spends on its own network, the more expensive it may become for another carrier to license or buy it.
Whatever Dish decides to do, it's going to happen rather quickly as the US begins its next era in wireless technology.