Dish Networks says the greenfield 5G network that it is building will attract customers such as cable companies and car companies that want to deliver best-in-class services to their customers.
Speaking during the company’s call with investors this week, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said that unlike its wireless operator counterparts, Dish’s 5G network will not have to incorporate the legacy 2G and 3G networks that were built for voice. Instead it will be a stand-alone 5G network. “This isn’t 5G marketing, this is real 5G,” Ergen said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the call.
That differentiation, according to Ergen, is appealing to cable companies. Comcast and Charter Communications currently offer wireless services to their customers but use Verizon’s 4G LTE network. However, Ergen said that those companies will want to “leapfrog the incumbents” by using Dish’s network instead.
During the investor call Ergen revealed a little more of the company’s 5G network plans, including that it plans to have a neutral-host business model in which other companies can rent space on its 5G network to deliver their own services. In fact, he compared it to Amazon Web Services’ business model. “With AWS, you can just add more capacity to AWS. You get to use your own data. It’s secure and it scales,” he said.
Dish hasn’t said exactly when it will launch its standalone 5G network, which it is calling Phase 2 of its network build. However, Ergen said it will likely happen in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Dish is currently building Phase 1 of its network, which is a narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network. The company has signed a deal with Ericsson to provide the NB-IoT gear and is also working with tower companies such as SBA Communications. Tom Cullen, Dish’s EVP of corporate development, said that the company has also hired site acquisition and construction companies to help build the network. Dish has to meet certain FCC-designated buildout requirements or it will risk having to forfeit its spectrum licenses.
The company has said it will spend between $500 million to $1 billion by 2020 on its wireless network buildout costs.
Ergen admitted that the company will have lots of competition for its NB-IoT network. T-Mobile US launched a nationwide NB-IoT network in July using equipment from Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm. Verizon has said it will build a NB-IoT network this year. And AT&T is planning to launch an NB-IoT network in 2019. “We’ll have more competition than we anticipated. But we like competition, and we’ll do the best we can.”