Dish Networks is starting to make good on its promises to deploy a nationwide 5G network. The company announced today that it has picked Ericsson radio access and core network equipment for its narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network that it will complete in March 2020. In addition, tower firm SBA Communications revealed in its quarterly earnings call with investors that Dish has signed tower leasing agreements with the company.
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has said that the company will build a 5G network from the ground up and that the first phase of that network will provide NB-IoT connectivity. The second phase will be a 5G network based upon the not-yet-released 3GPP Release 16 standard. That standard, which is often called standalone 5G, is intended to allow operators to launch a 5G network without requiring an underlying 4G network.
But Dish will have competition in the NB-IoT space. 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.
Dish’s 5G plans have been subject to a lot of speculation in the wireless industry. The satellite TV provider has accumulated nearly 100 MHz of low- and mid-band spectrum in the U.S., which is considered prime real estate for delivering high-speed cellular service. Analysts have speculated that Dish would sell those spectrum assets to an existing wireless operator, but so far that has not occurred. And in order to comply with FCC spectrum guidelines, the company must use its spectrum licenses by 2020 or it could lose them.
Dish Networks’ headquarters in Englewood, Colorado.