One of the biggest arguments against the now formalized T-Mobile-Sprint merger was it would disrupt the competitive balance in wireless industry as there’d only be three major wireless carriers in the United States as opposed to four—leading to higher prices for customers. The counterargument was that DISH Network planned to build a new wireless network, which would fill the void Sprint left in the industry. The state attorneys general who fought to block the merger did not believe DISH was a viable enough of a wireless option at the time to quiet their concerns, however.
Since that time, DISH has taken steps forward to become more viable. First, it gained the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s approval when it agreed to purchase assets from Sprint and T-Mobile in its efforts to create its own wireless network. DISH then committed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it would deploy a facilities-based 5G broadband network that’s capable of serving 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023 and requested its spectrum licenses be modified to reflect these commitments.
DISH recently took another big step forward in creating its network. The company entered a multi-year agreement with a leading network software provider to deliver a cloud-native OpenRAN software. Selecting a software vendor is a clear indication that DISH still plans to create the first software-defined wireless broadband network in the United States.
“The open and intelligent architecture of our greenfield network will give us the ability to source a diverse technology ecosystem, including U.S.-based solution providers,” DISH Chief Network Officer Marc Rouanne said in a release.
Coronavirus’ impact on DISH’s 5G wireless network
Earlier this month, DISH reduced its staff amid the Coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters. The move could be an indicator that the company will face challenges as it tries to compete in the national 5G race. The company’s goal was to complete its wireless network by 2023, but the health crisis has caused enough financial strive to question where DISH will get the $10 billion it needs to build a 5G network that covers 70 percent of the U.S. by that time.
“I think whatever rosy projections (DISH Executive Chairman) Charlie (Ergen) had are now very questionable,” said a source who expected to be part of Dish’s lending group and told the New York Post earlier this month. “There is no financing to build a telecom network.”