Mayo Builds Culture at DISH Wireless as He Builds Nationwide Network

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Connect(X) 2021 Coverage

It has been 20 years since Dave Mayo built a nationwide network from scratch. That was with T-Mobile. Now, as Executive Vice President, Network Development, for DISH Wireless, he is doing it again, and it has already been “one hell of a ride” he told a keynote audience on the second day of Connect(X) yesterday in Orlando.

“It is much different building a network now from what I remember,” he said. “For my first nine months, we were building the tracks just ahead of the train, because the train was coming and we had to do a lot of things to build.” 

It is well known. Mayo has his work cut out trying to deliver infrastructure by deadlines that occur in 2022, 2023 and 2025, when DISH Wireless must have 75 percent of the population in all economic areas covered.

“The last time I did this it took me 12 years and four acquisitions to get nationwide coverage,” Mayo said. “This time I have got to do it in three years, completely organically. What a Herculean task.”

Infrastructure is just part of Mayo’s challenges. He needed to build a corporate culture  along the way. Unlike its parent, which is a multi-billion dollar mature satellite TV company with 16,000 employees, DISH Wireless is starting from scratch in terms of infrastructure, which causes an odd mixture of cultures. While he wants to move fast, his support team at DISH Network tends to move slowly.

 Mayo said he had to work against DISH’s natural inclination to centralize the wireless build out. “A satellite company is naturally centralized,” he said. “The point of having a decentralized organization [with terrestrial communications] is that you can make decisions on the fly in the field. Without that, we wouldn’t have gotten anything done.” 

Another thing Mayo had to battle was the disbelief held by some that DISH Wireless could successfully build out the network before the FCC’s deadlines. He decided he needed to evangelize about DISH Wireless and where it was going. 

“I had to build credibility right out of the gate,” he said. “I needed to recruit people and build confidence. I need to put wind in the sails.”

Building the team was also a challenge, because of the pandemic. Initial interviews were all done over Zoom or Webex. Leadership level employees were flown into Denver for final interviews.  The qualifications Mayo was looking for in his people were “curiosity and adventurous spirits.”

“How do you hire during a pandemic? It was hard,” he said. “We needed people who could dig in and get the job done. But I am really pleased with the team that we have.”

Building momentum, DISH Wireless saw building permits and notices to proceed take off in April 2021, which has created a backlog of construction work. Mayo noted the carrier now has twice the number of Notices to Proceed as it has construction starts.

“We’re building that backlog, so that you guys can just keep running, because that’s what I want you to do. I want you to keep running, and you will have the confidence that there’s going to be more work for you, provided you do a great job,” Mayo said. 

DISH Wireless has started construction in 32 areas, including Cleveland and Columbus, OH. It has not begun construction in some of the big markets on the coasts where it will be deploying on a lot of rooftops, which take longer to lease up.  “We have lots of work going on in lots of places,” Mayo said. “It’s all coming together.”

By J. Sharpe Smith Inside Towers Technology Editor

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