Dish Network on track for 5G build-out; Phase1 is NB-IoT

Despite skepticism from industry analysts and some recent prodding by the FCC, Dish Network Corp. is steadfastly confident that it can meet its service and buildout commitments for the wireless spectrum it owns.  On it’s second quarter earings call (see excerpts below), Dish stressed that it’s “on track” to complete the first phase of a 5G-capable network, initially supporting Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) services, by March 2020.

Author’s Note: Of course, NB-IoT is a 3GPP spec and is not part of true standardized 5G (ITU-R IMT 2020).


CEO Charlie Ergen on Dish’s 2Q-2018 earnings call earlier this week:

When we first started talking about it, I think there was a high degree of skepticism that an IoT network — that narrowband IoT network was the business. And of course since that time, you’ve seen Verizon, and AT&T, and T-Mobile now has a national plan all around the world Vodafone, companies in China very far ahead in IoT. So think it’s now recognized that narrowband IoT is in fact a major contributor in the world moving forward.

So we have a track record of being innovative, disruptive and it may be on the — maybe being on the very, very leading edge of where technologies go and we have another opportunity to do that in 5G…. I think that the FCC is maybe just like many people in this call and many investors and that there is some skepticism on DISH’s ability to execute that plan it’s a big project. And I think as the months go by, as people see the progress that we made, you turn that into people coming to the realization that we can in fact — we face same skepticism when we were going to launch satellites and compete against with — compete against incumbents and major corporations. And we never done that before, it was a big project for us. But with a dedicated team of people focused on the right direction we’re confident that we’ll be able to do that.

But the big paradigm shift in 5G, not the market in 5G that you’re going to hear about , but the real paradigm shift in 5G is Release 16 from 3GPP, which for standalone network is December of 2019, that’s when the specification comes out. It allows you to do three things that you can’t do in 5G today; it allows massive broadband; it allows massive IoT connectivity; and it allows the network to have low latency, so very, very low latencies.

Editor’s Note:  That is absolutely correct- it’s 3GPP release 16, along with parts of release 15, that will be submitted to ITU-R WP 5D for consideration as an IMt 2020 RIT.

We also are in a position with clean sheet of paper to do one — two more things really; one is to virtualize the network in a day and virtualize every aspect of our network, not just portions of it; and to slice our network so that it looks like separate networks to potential partners and customers. So it’s a huge, huge paradigm shift in terms of being 100% 5G with Release 19. So that release comes out at December 19, which means that people have to go build product for that. So product becomes available sometime later in 2020.

The second thing that happens is that our uplink spectrum. Let’s take 600 megahertz as an example that is not cleared by the broadcasters fully cleared until July of 2020. So we can’t build a modern network. The state-of-the-art we can’t start building that until 2020. And we’re hampered today just as a sideline, we’re very hampered today in building network because our uplink spectrum — we only have 5 megahertz of uplink spectrum. You can’t build a massive broadband network with 5 megahertz of uplink spectrum. So we have a lot of downlink spectrum, but we don’t have corresponding uplink. So we’ve got to get that cleared. And it’s not — it’s the 600 megahertz, it’s still the DE issues that are outstanding, all those things need to get cleared up for us to be able to do it. But everything comes together in 2020 for us to build a modern network.

The competitors will start building hybrid networks, but they’re not going to get to a full 5G platform without ripping out what they already have. And they have hundreds of millions of customers with phones. So the phone customer is not going to see that much difference in latency. So that some of the things that we’re going to do aren’t going to be that attractive from a cost to benefit ratio to the incumbents. But if we want to lead in 5G, we want to lead in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles,, smart cities, you’re going to need a more modern network for that and we’ll play big part in that.

Dish expects NB-IoT deployments to start “in earnest” this fall, Tom Cullen, Dish’s EVP of corporate development said. He pointed out that this part of the buildout is already funded by cash on the company’s balance sheet.

As I mentioned on the last call, we’ve made a lot of good progress and it’s the number one priority here at DISH and we’ve got a dedicated team working on it day-in and day-out. And we’ll start seeing radios in the next in the coming weeks and the deployment will start in earnest later this fall and that as we’ve mentioned before, it can be funded off of cash on the balance sheet.

On the number of NB-IoT cell sites/towers, Ergen said:

We’re not, at this point, disclosing the number of towers. As you know — as you’re doing RF planning and deployment that’s a pretty fluid environment and the number of towers is changing as we make progress going down the road. So I can’t address that specifically other than, as I said earlier, we feel like we’re making good progress and we’ll have pretty meaningful insight I think in the next four to six months.

I think you can assume that we would have materially less towers in phase one than phase two as you get into some of 5G applications that once the Release 19 is that you’ll need a denser network for sure. We have disclosed that we expect to spend between $500 and $1 billion on wireless through 2020. So they give you’re a range where we think it is no matter how many towers it is, we’re probably going to be in that range. And we’re working with a third party for RF design in terms of how many towers. And then obviously once we get it to test, we could verify that the specifications that the RF design and the vendors have said to us, is accurate. And so we’re — the answer is we don’t surely know, but we do know it’s materially less towers than perhaps the incumbents have today on a nationwide basis just because the range is clearly farther to the spec.

Cullen on 3GPP NB-IoT coverage:

 I would only say that the 3GPP standard spec) today is about 35 kilometer coverage. But the 3GPP is currently entertaining, changing the NB-IoT standard (spec) to 120 kilometers of coverage and some of the vendors we’re working with are able to provide 100 km. Now you can’t do that in every area, obviously, because of clutter and urban density and so forth. But that — because of that level of propagation, it reduces the number of towers necessary to provide the required terrestrial signal coverage as dictated by the license.

Ergen refuted persistent suggestions that Dish should just sell its spectrum, holding that Dish is committed to the network buildout because 5G is critical to the company’s future.

I don’t think you’ve heard me talking much about selling spectrum even, question number one. And then analysts have talked about that but I think that we see such an opportunity for 5G in terms of what that does realizes is our network is going to be different as a standalone network, it’s a little bit different. And we think the customer we might go after might be quite a bit different than the incumbents. And we see that as the long-term future of how this company is relevant 30 years from now. And so that’s a tough transition and tough on investors to be patient while it goes through that. But that has been our focus and has always been our focus.

We originally want to be built an LTE 4G network. We just — the rules on H-block got changed where we suddenly lost some of our — from interference perspective and we had to change course and then we had to go downlink this is all things that took place we had to wait for the next paradigm shift. And that’s — the good news is the 5G paradigm shift is much bigger than the LTE paradigm shift.

How much capital will be needed for the 5G build-out?  Here’s what Ergen said:

There is no question that we need to raise capital for the build-out. But realize we’re two-thirds of the way there — more than two-thirds of the way there in terms of capital for total 5G network. So run the math on that and it’s something like dollar megahertz per pop with a totally standalone 5G network, right. The number of people that might be attractive to is very long. What way you might structure partnerships and the ability for capital are many, many, many, many options to how you might do that.

There isn’t an industry in the next decade that doesn’t need what we’re going to build; and tens of billions of dollars is going to autonomous vehicles, but they’re going to need a piece of what we have; tens of billions of dollars goes to healthcare, they need a piece of what we have; tens of billions of dollars goes in utilities, they need a piece of what we have; tens of billions dollars is going into artificial intelligence, they need a piece of what we have; tens of billions of dollars are going in virtual reality, autoimmune reality and need a piece of what we have; tens of billions dollars is going into smart cities, they need a piece of what we have.

How long will NB-IoT build out take and what comes next?

It takes three years to build this first phase (NB-IoT). But the first phase leads to the second phase, which I think everybody is going to be pretty thrilled about, including the FCCs and investors and consumers. The first phase is going to be important but it’s not going to be as massive as we all would like. But for our license that’s not required and there is practical reasons why we can’t make it more massive today.





3 thoughts on “Dish Network on track for 5G build-out; Phase1 is NB-IoT

  1. When did NB-IoT become part of 5G? It’s a 3GPP spec that won’t be presented to ITU-R for IMT 2020 RIT in July 2019!

  2. Bloomberg: Dish Faces ‘Difficult’ Path to Becoming a Wireless Powerhouse, By Olga Kharif and Nabila Ahmed
    July 26, 2019, 9:00 PM PDT

    Dish Network Corp., the hard-bargaining satellite-television company, is embarking on a second act as a major wireless carrier. But even with a cache of prized assets, it faces long-shot odds of pulling it off.

    The Justice Department opened the door for Dish on Friday when it cleared the $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. In doing so, it forced those companies to divest assets that will potentially transform the pay-TV provider into a major competitor. But Dish, controlled by Chairman Charlie Ergen, will still need to spend $20 billion over the next few years to build a nationwide wireless network and make use of the spectrum it owns, according to Roger Entner, a telecom analyst and founder of Recon Analytics LLC. Additional billions will be needed to run the network, set up stores and buy advertising, he said.

    “If you are spending less than the others, you are usually not closing the gap,” Entner said. “The others are not going to stand by and let Charlie Ergen take away their lunch. So difficult!”

    Becoming a wireless carrier would be a dramatic makeover for Dish, a company whose very name is synonymous with satellite equipment. Still, others have pulled off similar feats. Apple Inc. was a nobody in the mobile-phone market before 2007. Nintendo Co. was a 19th century maker of playing cards.

    Ergen, a longtime card player, likes to gamble. In an interview on Friday, he said that anyone betting against Dish is making a foolish wager. “I’ve been in plenty of card games with guys across from me betting wrong,” he said. But he faces pressures that will make the overhaul challenging. With $14.4 billion in long-term debt at the end of the first quarter, Dish already is highly leveraged and may have trouble raising funds at affordable rates, Entner said.

    Dish’s existing satellite-TV business, meanwhile, has hemorrhaged subscribers in recent years.

    Even if Ergen is able to raise the money, competing with giants Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and the new T-Mobile-Sprint will be tough, Entner said. In most countries, only three wireless companies are able to make a profit. In the U.S., No. 4 Sprint has been a financial train wreck, racking up billions of dollars in debt and losses.

    Dish said on Friday that it won’t need additional funds for at least the next year or so. And it’s already getting offers from prospective financing partners, said Tom Cullen, Dish’s executive vice president overseeing its wireless push.

    Consumer groups have doubts about the endeavor. Public Citizen labeled the Justice Department deal a disaster on Friday, and called out Englewood, Colorado-based Dish in particular for failing to deliver on a long-promised network. Even before the agreement with T-Mobile and Sprint, the satellite company had vowed to turn its wireless airwaves into a network.

    “Dish is never going to build out a wireless network,” Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, said in a statement. “It has been promising the Federal Communications Commission and the Congress for nearly a decade that it would enter the wireless market but has never done so.”

    What’s more likely is that Dish will ultimately sell its wireless assets to a top-three wireless carrier, analyst Chetan Sharma said in an interview. And that would leave U.S. consumers in the exact situation that the Justice Department sought to avoid: picking among just three options.

    As part of the Justice Department (DoJ) agreement, Dish agreed not to sell some of its spectrum for six years without prior regulatory consent. The company also can’t lease more than 35% its capacity to the top-three providers for six years without regulatory approval.

    Dish is committed to rolling out a nationwide 5G network that reaches 70% of U.S. population by June of 2023. If the company fails, it owes the government as much as $2.2 billion.

    “As we enter the wireless business, we will again serve customers by disrupting incumbents and their legacy networks, this time with the nation’s first stand-alone 5G broadband network,” Ergen said in a statement.

    Underlying that pledge is $5 billion in assets that T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to sell to Dish as a condition of Justice Department approval of their merger.

    Under the accord, Dish is buying spectrum, as well as Sprint’s Boost and Virgin prepaid businesses. T-Mobile is also required to provide access to its mobile network for seven years while Dish builds its own 5G network, according to a Justice Department statement.

    The spectrum purchase is expected to be completed three years after the closing of the acquisition of the prepaid business, Dish said.

    “The remedies set up Dish as a disruptive force in wireless,” Makan Delrahim, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said in a briefing with reporters.

    While Dish may struggle to build a network on its own, it could fare better if it secures a partner, such as a large technology company, said Tim Farrar, principal at TMF Associates. The terms of the deal with the Justice Department bar an outright change in control.

    “The key question is whether a new entrant can disrupt the wireless market,” Farrar said. “On its own the answer is no, but if Dish secures a major partner like Amazon, then it becomes more plausible.”

  3. As DISH prepares to build the first standalone 5G broadband network in the U.S., it announced it will release a Request for Proposal (RFP) for end-to-end deployment services vendors, the third in a series of RFPs for different elements of the national network.

    The Deployment Services RFP, set to be released the week of October 28, will include requests for strategies and experience in the following areas:
    1. Real Estate / Pre-Construction
    a. Site acquisition services to include site identification, leasing, zoning, and permitting
    b. Architecture and engineering services to include structural analyses, zoning, drawings, construction drawings, etc.
    c. Utility coordination to facilitate the timely delivery of electrical services and/or transport fronthaul/backhaul services and associated easements
    d. Regulatory and compliance services associated with the construction of wireless communications facilities
    2. Construction
    a. End-to-end construction services including equipment/material procurement, preconstruction staging, quality and safety management, as well as documentation throughout

    b. Civil/electrical work to prepare sites for 5G equipment and delivery, install and
    connect equipment to electrical and transport utilities
    c. RF installation services to deploy 5G antennas, remote radio units, hybrid cables, etc.

    Additionally, DISH has entered into a series of agreements and arrangements with the United States government, T-Mobile and Sprint that materially impact our deployment plans and will facilitate and accelerate our entry into the wireless market as a nationwide facilities-based carrier.

    Among other things:
    (1) Following the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, New T-Mobile will sell to DISH certain assets associated with the Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Sprint-branded prepaid mobile service businesses (the “Prepaid Business”), which will provide DISH with millions of wireless subscribers nationwide.
    (2) Pursuant to a Master Network Services Agreement, DISH will gain access to New TMobile’s network for up to 7 years to enable DISH to provide wireless communications services to end users (including those acquired as part of the Prepaid Business) and to allow DISH to evolve such business into a free- standing, fully independent wireless network operator business.
    (3) DISH has committed to the FCC that, by June 14, 2022, it will have deployed a core network and will offer 5G Broadband Service1 to at least 20% of the U.S. population2 using DISH’s AWS-4, Lower 700 MHz E Block and H Block licenses.
    DISH Executive Vice President of Wireless Operations, Jeff McSchooler stated:

    “We’re building a first-of-its kind standalone 5G network and want to employ a diversity of expertise from partners large and small. We’ll build upon the existing relationships we have with deployment vendors from our NB-IoT buildout, while seeking local, regional and national vendors that can apply their strengths to increase the speed and efficiency of our 5G network deployment.”

    DISH previously entered into numerous master services agreements with national deployment vendors when it initiated the buildout of an NB-IoT network in 2018. As announced in July, DISH has committed to build a standalone 5G broadband network available to at least 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023.

    The Deployment Services RFP is the third such document DISH has issued since the announcement in July. DISH issued a 5G Network RFI/P in July, seeking input from vendors for the network elements. In September, DISH issued a System RFP, seeking responses from vendors to provide a software solution for project management, workflows, reporting and other utilities that aid in deploying the national network.

    Vendors interested in receiving the Deployment Services RFP when it is released can contact DISH Wireless at before Oct. 28, 2019.

    About DISH
    DISH Network Corporation is a connectivity company. Since 1980, it has served as a disruptive force, driving innovation and value on behalf of consumers. Through its subsidiaries, the company provides television entertainment and award-winning technology to millions of customers with its satellite DISH TV and streaming Sling TV services. Through its strategic spectrum portfolio and other assets, DISH is poised to enter the wireless market as a facilities-based provider of wireless services with a nationwide consumer offering and development of the first standalone 5G broadband network in the U.S. DISH’s OnTech Smart Services brand offers in-home installation of connected home devices and entertainment solutions. DISH Media serves as the company’s advertising sales group delivering targeted advertising solutions. DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) is a Fortune 250 company.

    For company information, visit
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    SOURCE DISH Network Corporation

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