Diversifying DISHThe transition to wireless operator comes as the subscriber base of DISH’s satellite TV business continues to shrink. The company’s streaming service – Sling TV – also saw a slight drop in subscribers from 2019 to 2020. DISH are not alone in experiencing this decline, with the share of households in the United States with a pay TV subscription falling significantly from 2015 to 2021. By establishing a wireless business, DISH gain exposure to the growing market of 5G services and reduce their dependence on pay TV.
DISH will operate as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) for seven years under the terms of the deal, using T-Mobile US infrastructure while they build out their own network. DISH has been able to generate revenue from Boost Mobile immediately, although subscriber numbers have decreased since the time of acquisition.
While DISH’s early wireless activities have been successful, a decision by T-Mobile US to shut down their 2G and 3G (CDMA) service earlier than expected has thrown a spanner in the works. Many Boost Mobile customers use handsets that rely on this technology, meaning the company will need to find a way to avoid disruptions for those customers after the transition date of 1 January 2022.
Moving ahead with 5GDISH’s ambitions go beyond simply operating as an MVNO. The company’s aim is to offer 5G services through their own 5G network, in line with commitments made to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the 2020 merger deal. Under the terms of the deal, DISH committed to deploy a 5G network that covers 20 percent of the United States population by June 2022, and 70 percent of the population by June 2023.
T-Mobile US currently have the largest 5G presence, covering 1.6 million square miles of the United States, more than twice the area of nearest rival Verizon. Las Vegas is set to be the first city in which DISH’s own 5G service is available, with the build set to commence in the third quarter of 2020.
The company has inked several key deals with infrastructure partners, including American Tower, which will give them access to approximately 20,000 towers on which they can attach their own radios.