Dish, a company known for its satellite TV service and Sling, looks to actually be building a 5G wireless network. We’ve known for a while that Dish harbors ambitions to play with AT&T and Verizon, but a recent SEC filing spotted by Fierce Wireless shows that the company is committing $1 billion to build out a 5G network in the next three years.
“Since 2008, we have directly invested over $11 billion to acquire certain wireless spectrum licenses and related assets and made over $10 billion in non-controlling investments in certain entities, for a total of over $21 billion,” Dish wrote in the filing. “In March 2017, we notified the FCC that we plan to deploy a next-generation 5G-capable network, focused on supporting narrowband Internet of Things (“IoT”). The first phase of our network deployment will be completed by March 2020, with subsequent phases to be completed thereafter. We may also determine that additional wireless spectrum licenses may be required to commercialize our wireless business and to compete with other wireless service providers.”
On a call with investors today, the company’s CEO reiterated that its plan right now is to build out a narrowband-Internet of Things network, which won’t compete with traditional wireless networks. That narrowband network uses existing spectrum licenses that Dish owns, and will service low-bandwidth connected devices rather than cellphones.
After 2020, however, the door should be wide open for Dish to build out a standalone 5G network. The industry group that’s defining 5G standards hasn’t formalized the plan for a 5G-only network just yet — the 5G networks announced by AT&T and other networks rely on the existing LTE network as well — but once the standalone 5G specification is published, it sounds like Dish is planning on becoming a national wireless player.
“The network, as we talked about it and disclosed to the FCC last year, is a narrowband IoT network,” Dish execs said on the earnings call. “It’ll cover 70% of the population at a minimum across the country, and obviously after we came out with a narrowband IoT network, you’ve seen major communication companies around the world and the United States also declare their intentions for narrowband IoT. So the connectivity side of where the world is going is being recognized by people at all levels.”