Why DISH Could Run Out of Time on 5G Network

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DISH Network co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen’s company is being closely watched by the FCC to ensure the company meets its buildout deadlines for more than one billion dollars’ worth of wireless spectrum his company bought. The spectrum is part of Ergen’s plan to transform the satellite company to a broadband company with a neutral-host 5G wireless network, he told ConnectX attendees last spring, Inside Towers reported.

Ergen and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have traded letters over the subject for six months.

DISH has said its meeting its goals while the agency has questioned the progress. Sources tell Fox Business that Pai is closely monitoring the situation.

By March 2020, Dish has to show the FCC it’s built out a substantial wireless network, based on $3 billion worth of spectrum it acquired from two bankrupt operators, TerreStar and DBSD North America, in 2012, reported CNBC. Specifically, it promised the FCC in 2013, that it would provide signal coverage to 70 percent of the population in the 176 markets that are part of the license, known as AWS-4 (Advanced Wireless Services).

If DISH doesn’t meet the 2020 deadline, or get an extension, the Commission could pull some of those licenses, leaving DISH billions in the hole, according to both accounts. In addition, rival T-Mobile has said DISH is hoarding spectrum and called for the agency to pull the company’s spectrum licenses. DISH counters T-Mobile would be hoarding spectrum if its deal to merge with Sprint is approved, by migrating Sprint customers to a network built using spectrum licenses from both carriers.

DISH meanwhile, assures the FCC it’s on track to meet the 2020 deadline, though Pai has his doubts, reports Fox. A Commission spokeswoman had no comment. Ergen could potentially sell his licenses by selling DISH, and has said there are interested parties. But bankers and analysts say the market has dried up with consolidation.

A DISH spokeswoman told Fox: “Our plan presents the most promising technology to fulfill a growing demand for IoT connectivity in the near term and will serve as a bridge to build the first standalone 5G network in the United States. Our plan is consistent with the flexible use policies the FCC established for the spectrum licenses, and will help advance our country’s goal to lead in the global race to 5G.”  Comments? Email Us.

January 10, 2019

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