Charlie Ergen, chairman and co-founder of DISH discussed his company’s foray into the wireless business in Charlotte, NC at Connect (X). He told attendees, “There are incumbents who do a great job connecting to your phone but the future is going to be connecting to machines. How do you build that network?”
In an on-stage interview with former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, now a partner at law firm Cooley, Ergen said: “We know how to partner with people who know more than we do,” said Ergen. “We have signed some master lease agreements with tower companies,” mentioning a $500 million to $1 billion buildout in the initial phase.
Phase two will be a cost of “at least $10 billion,” Ergen said, to build a national wireless network – the first time that number has been made public, according to two WIA sources at the show. The initial phase consists of a national wireless network focused on narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT), with phase two expected to be a 5G network.
The large dollars amounts being discussed excited tower and other executives at the show. “An investment of this much money is very good news for the wireless infrastructure industry,” said Wireless Infrastructure President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein, in an interview with Inside Towers yesterday.
Dish has ordered radios from some vendors at the show and Ergen said his company plans to begin testing the network this fall.
“Once we start construction, then we start planning for [a] 5G network. The 600 MHZ spectrum is not cleared for us nationwide until 2020,” said Ergen. He acknowledged: “We don’t have any customers and we are not as knowledgeable as people who are already in this business. We’re incentivized to reinvent ourselves,” he said, adding it took five years to build the DISH business, competing against Direct Broadcast Satellite, TCI and others. Now DISH has 13 million customers.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
May 24, 2018