Justice Dept approves the “New T-Mobile” via Sprint merger; Dish Network becomes 4th U.S. wireless carrier with focus on 5G

The Justice Department approved T-Mobile US Inc. ’s merger with Sprint Corp. after the companies agreed to create a new wireless carrier by selling assets to satellite-TV provider Dish Network Corp.  The federal approval for T-Mobile and Sprint caps a more than yearlong review of a combination that fell apart twice in the past five years over terms of the deal or fears that the Justice Department would object.

The landmark antitrust agreement seeks to address concerns that the combination of T-Mobile, the nation’s No. 3 carrier by subscribers, and No. 4 Sprint will drive up prices for consumers. It would leave more than 95% of American cellphone customers with the top three U.S. operators.

A deal brokered by the Justice Department will require Dish, which has been sitting on valuable airwaves, to build a 5G network for cellphone customers. To help it get started, T-Mobile will sell Sprint’s prepaid brands to Dish and give access to its network for seven years.

“The remedies set up Dish as a disruptive force in wireless” with the pieces needed for the company to have a cellphone service that is ready to go, Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, said in a news conference.

Critics of the arrangement include a group of state attorneys general that broke with the Justice Department and have filed an antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the more than $26 billion merger. Five states that weren’t part of the lawsuit joined the federal government in the settlement announced Friday.

“Why scramble so much to create a fourth competitor when you already have one?” said Samuel Weinstein, an assistant law professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who worked previously in the Justice Department’s antitrust unit.

The deal gives Dish Network, a satellite-TV provider, about nine million Sprint prepaid cellphone customers and additional wireless spectrum. Those subscribers, which mostly come from its Boost Mobile business, represent about one-fifth of Sprint’s customer base. Dish’s service, which could keep the Boost brand or take on a new name, would also be able to move from pay-as-you-go plans to postpaid service, which tends to be more profitable.

T-Mobile and Sprint must also give Dish access to at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. The new T-Mobile must provide “robust access” to its network, the Justice Department said.  Please see comments on Dish in the box below this article.

The union of T-Mobile and Sprint, years in the making, would create a wireless company surpassing 90 million U.S. customers, closing the gap with Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., which each have roughly 100 million wireless customers. It also would fulfill a long-held goal of Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., which owns most of Sprint, and Deutsche Telekom AG, which controls T-Mobile.

T-Mobile and Sprint currently use separate frequencies, often requiring different cell towers:

Under the merger:

  • Dish rents capacity from the new T-Mobile, creating a new carrier to serve Boost Mobile customers and giving it time to build its own network.
  • After seven years, Dish runs its own network using spectrum from its past acquisitions and its own equipment installed on fewer towers.

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who had previously backed the deal, said Friday the Justice Department settlement, coupled with T-Mobile and Sprint’s earlier commitments to deploy a nationwide 5G network, will preserve competition and advance U.S. leadership in rolling out next-generation networks.

In its agreement with the government, T-Mobile promised not to raise prices for three years and cover 97% of the U.S. population with 5G service in three years.   T-Mobile has been adding millions of customers at the expense of its rivals, pushing unlimited data plans and lower prices than the incumbents. Sprint, despite owning valuable airwaves, has been shedding millions of subscribers and has struggled to be profitable.

T-Mobile surpassed Sprint to become the number three wireless carrier by subscribers and argued the acquisition of the smaller carrier’s airwaves would help speed its deployment of a 5G network so that it could better compete with Verizon and AT&T.  U.S. carriers have been battling for customers in the $180 billion wireless voice-and-data market, where growth has slowed now that the companies have rolled out unlimited data plans and most Americans have upgraded to smartphones.

 

Dish will scrap its NB-IoT plan and focus purely on 5G, which the U.S. government has always wanted, according to a person familiar with the matter. (Dish hasn’t totally abandoned its old plan yet because the deal still hasn’t closed).  Dish must build a 5G network that covers 20% of the U.S. population by 2022 and 70% by 2023. If it can’t reach that goal, Dish will have to pay a $2.2 billion penalty to the U.S. Treasury.
Merger Being Challenged:
A group of states led by the attorneys general of New York and California are pressing ahead with an antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the combination, saying it would harm consumers. All the officials who joined the suit are Democrats; those who decided to support the Justice Department on Friday are Republicans.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said the proposed merger would cause harm to consumers nationwide. “To be clear: The free market should be picking winners and losers, not the government, and not regulators,” she said during a call with reporters. Ms. James said Dish lacks the experience to operate a nationwide mobile network.

Mr. Delrahim said his office will share its settlement with the federal judge overseeing the states’ lawsuit. “Sometimes independent sovereigns do make independent determinations,” he said. A trial is expected later this year. On Friday, T-Mobile and Sprint extended the deadline to close their deal, from July 29 to Nov. 1.

The Justice Department stopped sharing information with the Democratic attorneys general after they decided to file their lawsuit in June without notifying their federal counterparts, Mr. Delrahim said. “That was their choice, not ours,” he said.

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T-Mobile said it expects to close its Sprint purchase in the second half of this year despite the states’ lawsuit.  Under the deal, Dish will pay $1.4 billion for the Sprint customer accounts, most of which come from its Boost prepaid brand, and $3.6 billion three years later to buy Sprint spectrum licenses in the 800-megahertz range, which can travel long distances and cover rural areas.

The new T-Mobile will have the option to lease back part of that spectrum for an additional two years after the airwaves sale closes. The companies have also agreed to negotiate for T-Mobile to lease Dish spectrum in the 600-megahertz range.

Dish is set to start its wireless life with a base of Sprint’s pay-as-you-go customers, though carriers often struggle to keep those so-called prepaid subscribers. More than 4% of Sprint’s prepaid customers choose to drop their service or are disconnected for nonpayment each month, according to company filings.

The deal creates a fake competitor, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a lecturer at Georgetown Law, adding that even if Dish builds out its own network it will take years. During that time, the three large carriers will be able to introduce 5G and lock in their subscriber bases, he said.

“Rather than having Sprint as a weak fourth competitor, the combined companies will now face an extremely weak fourth competitor,” Mr. Schwartzman said.

Sprint ended March with nearly $33 billion of net debt on its balance sheet. Even though it had more than 40 million customers, Sprint said during deal negotiations that it was in poor health and wouldn’t be able to launch nationwide 5G service without the merger.

Dish has argued it can build a better network by starting from scratch. Even before he pursued a deal with the Justice Department, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said his business could invest capital more efficiently without the burden of old equipment and software holding back its ambitions. Dish hasn’t made public the prices or structure of the wireless plans it will sell.

“These developments are the fulfillment of more than two decades’ worth of work and more than $21 billion in spectrum investments intended to transform Dish into a connectivity company,” Dish CEO Ergen said in a press release. “Taken together, these opportunities will set the stage for our entry as the nation’s fourth facilities-based wireless competitor and accelerate our work to launch the country’s first standalone 5G broadband network.”

Dish says:

The 800 MHz nationwide spectrum adds to Dish’s existing 600 MHz and 700 MHz low-band holdings. The low-band portfolio, well suited for wide geographic coverage and in-building penetration, complements Dish’s AWS-4 and AWS H Block mid-band offerings, which promise high data capacity potential with narrower operating range.

Dish has committed to new buildout schedules associated with the company’s 600 MHz, AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block and AWS H Block licenses. In addition, DISH has committed to deploy 5G Broadband Service utilizing those licenses.

Senior FCC officials said on a call with reporters that they are confident the new carrier under Dish will be viable because the wholesale deal it has struck with the new T-Mobile is more aggressive than any other such arrangement the carrier and Sprint currently have. Its terms give Dish the financial ability to compete in the prepaid market against T-Mobile’s Metro brand, they said.   The settlement also included provisions designed to make sure Dish actually builds the promised infrastructure. Among other penalties, Dish agreed to pay the government up to $2.2 billion if it fails to meet its network expansion requirements.

Following the closing of T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint and subsequent integration into the New T-Mobile, DISH will have the option to take on leases for certain cell sites and retail locations that are decommissioned by the New T-Mobile for five years following the closing of the divestiture transaction, subject to any assignment restrictions. The companies have also committed to engage in good faith negotiations regarding the leasing of some or all of DISH’s 600 MHz spectrum to T-Mobile.

The completion of the T-Mobile and Sprint combination remains subject to remaining regulatory approvals and certain other customary closing conditions. T-Mobile and Sprint expect to receive final federal regulatory approval in Q3 2019 and currently anticipate that the merger will be permitted to close in the second half of 2019. Additional information can be found at www.NewTMobile.com.

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Addendum from WSJ Editorial Board July 27, 2019 print edition:

The Justice Dept has rescued Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen from his bet of buying wireless spectrum but keeping it idle. Mr. Ergen loudly opposed the merger, and his reward was the chance to buy Sprint’s pre-paid customers at a bargain price and have access to 20,000 T-Mobile-Sprint cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. But Dish has no experience running a wireless network, and it will take years to build one even as the Big Three invest to gain an edge in 5G wireless…………………………………………………..

A  strong third competitor will be good for consumers and 5G deployment in the U.S. The combined company should force Verizon and AT&T to focus on 5G rather than dabbling in content acquisitions like Time Warner. Three strong competitors are better than two.

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FCC Comments:

“That’s a real significant win for U.S. leadership in 5G. It’s been my top priority. It’s been a big priority for the Trump administration. And by accelerating 5G build-out through this deal, 99% of Americans are going to see 5G faster,” FCC Commissioner Carr said.

In addition to the Justice Department, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced support for the more than $26 billion merger in May. The deal still faces a lawsuit from 13 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia that seeks to block it.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/26/fcc-official-clearance-of-sprint-t-mobile-deal-is-significant-win.html

 

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References:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/justice-department-approves-merger-of-t-mobile-us-and-sprint-11564155026

https://www.t-mobile.com/news/t-mobile-sprint-merger-doj-clearance

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/26/dish-network-finally-has-a-plan-for-a-new-wireless-network.html

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2018/08/03/dish-network-on-track-for-5g-build-out-phase1-is-nb-iot/

5 thoughts on “Justice Dept approves the “New T-Mobile” via Sprint merger; Dish Network becomes 4th U.S. wireless carrier with focus on 5G

  1. Washington Post comments:

    There’s irony in the fact that amid all the chest-thumping about U.S. technological dominance, the biggest beneficiary of the DOJ’s decision is a billionaire from Japan named Masayoshi Son. His company, SoftBank Group Corp., controls the downtrodden Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, which has largely been a disappointing investment for Son. Sprint, strained by debt and a run-down brand, now gets to join a superior operator on healthier footing – and Son gets a piece of it. SoftBank is retaining 27% economic ownership of the combined entity, while T-Mobile’s German parent, Deutsche Telekom AG, will own 42%. Shares of their rivals, Verizon and AT&T, extended gains after the DOJ announcement.

    It’s not a done deal yet. Attorneys general from 13 states and the District of Columbia have sued to block the merger; should they proceed, they may have a strong case. However, Delrahim is reportedly trying to negotiate with state officials.

    Still, the DOJ appears to be contradicting itself. Just three days ago, Delrahim’s antitrust division announced a broad review of the U.S. technology giants, such as Facebook Inc. and Google, to look into whether they possess too much power and cause consumer harm. Backing a deal that similarly has the potential to hurt consumers is inconsistent with his concerns about tech overreach. The appearance of a double standard doesn’t help to suppress speculation that political forces may be at play.

    Questions have been raised about White House interference, just as they were during last year’s trial over AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner, in which the DOJ failed in its effort to block the deal. While some 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have come out against the Sprint takeover, arguing it would hurt lower-income consumers and Americans in rural areas, President Donald Trump has signaled support by emphasizing the need to be globally competitive in 5G and facilitate such investments:

    The FCC also became fiercely divided along party lines. Pai, a Republican, broke with tradition by voicing his support for the transaction in May, before his own agency colleagues and counterparts at the DOJ had the chance to complete their analyses. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, expressed her displeasure with how this was handled, saying it “looks like some backroom dealing.”

    The country’s 5G push isn’t based on fantasy or a ruse, but it’s not clear how enabling T-Mobile and Sprint to combine their 5G capabilities abates the antitrust issues. On the one hand, T-Mobile will gain Sprint’s desirable mid-band spectrum, which can carry data at fast speeds and still travel long distances and through buildings. That makes it practical for connecting rural areas, as the companies promise to help close the country’s digital divide. After all, there’s a connection between income inequality and a lack of affordable access to wireless connectivity, which has become part of our social fabric.

    But while addressing that problem is certainly a mission to support, skepticism is warranted when any megamerger promises better service and better prices as a result. Just look at the airline industry: Consolidation has left the carriers with little incentive to compete on price or labor, improve the experience for customers or try to earn their trust (and in the case of wireless companies, part of that trust is with our personal data, and it’s been broken before).

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/t-mobile-and-sprint-are-almost-one-hooray/2019/07/26/

  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.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-27/dish-faces-difficult-path-to-becoming-a-wireless-powerhouse

    1. Saturday WSJ: By Drew FitzGerald July 27, 2019 12:00 am ET
      Charlie Ergen, the poker-playing billionaire who co-founded Dish Network, has been hoarding airwaves for years. Now the U.S. government is handing him the cards he needs to make his play
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      Charlie Ergen has long tried to muscle his way into the U.S. wireless business. When his rivals had no other choice, the billionaire behind Dish Network Corp. finally got his way.

      John Legere, the chief executive of T-Mobile US Inc., called Mr. Ergen in late May after it became clear T-Mobile’s proposed takeover of Sprint Corp. was in trouble.

      Mr. Ergen had been the most outspoken corporate critic of the proposed $26 billion deal—a merger that would leave the U.S. with three giant cellular companies. But the Colorado maverick also ran one of the few firms with the airwaves and know-how to create a new wireless provider that would satisfy the Justice Department’s antitrust concerns.

      Two serious attempts to combine T-Mobile and Sprint in the last five years had already failed. Its third try was already a year old.

      Mr. Legere, a foul-mouthed executive known for tweets poking fun at his rivals, was all business on the phone. “Justice has said that we need a fourth carrier. We should talk if you are interested,” Mr. Ergen recalled.

      For years, Mr. Ergen had irked telecom rivals and federal regulators by spending more than $20 billion amassing wireless licenses but never using them. Time and again Mr. Ergen had explored various deals, including buying Sprint himself, only to frustrate the other side. Now, he was the only buyer that could build a credible fourth nationwide cellphone operator.

      “With four, there’s always somebody that will be a rabble rouser,” Mr. Ergen said in an interview this week in his office south of Denver. “Somebody will say I don’t have enough market share. I’ve only got 9 million subs and want 10 million. That person is going to be more aggressive. The guy who’s got 100 million, he’s just going to hope he holds onto them.”

      Whether Dish can become a formidable force in the mature U.S. cellphone market will be a key test of the landmark antitrust agreement unveiled Friday between the Justice Department and the companies. The carefully crafted deal gives Dish 9 million of Sprint’s prepaid customers—its Boost Mobile business and then some—plus the right to buy licenses to more airwaves that can blanket rural areas. It will let Dish operate on T-Mobile’s existing network for seven years while Dish builds its own nationwide service.

      A former professional poker player and card-counting blackjack whiz who was banned by some Las Vegas casinos, Mr. Ergen co-founded Dish in 1980 after starting his career as an analyst at Frito Lay where he calculated how many Doritos should fill a bag. He and his partners bet their savings, pooling together $60,000 on selling 10-foot-wide satellite dishes from a Denver storefront.

      He has said his experience gambling helped hone his business acumen—knowing how to “win with bad hands.” More than once, Mr. Ergen has compared his business plans to an “Indiana Jones” movie in which the hero narrowly dodges a never ending string of lethal threats.

      He switched to hubcap-size dishes and took on cable-TV monopolies by slashing prices. His service now has 12 million customers across the country and his controlling stake in Dish is worth about $9 billion. (He is also the chairman and biggest shareholder in sister company EchoStar Corp. , which operates satellites.)

      The 66-year-old tends to play by his own rules. He has made executives share hotel rooms on company trips and has done market research with what he called the “Waffle House poll,” visiting outlets around the country and asking customers how they used their phones and watched television.

      His famously frugal ethos—he still drives to Dish’s Englewood, Colo., headquarters with lunch in a brown paper bag—isn’t always evident these days. The billionaire often flies in a private jet and has stopped making employees share hotel rooms on business trips, according to people familiar with the company.

      Mr. Ergen, whose core satellite-TV service has been losing customers, admits he is starting from behind in the cellphone game. But he argues that gives him an advantage. “Their legacy is mishmash. Their networks are plaid,” Mr. Ergen said, pointing to his green-checked dress shirt. “We will be a solid color.”

      Dish’s new network will be dwarfed by the incumbents. Verizon Communications Inc. has nearly 120 million cellphone customers. AT&T Inc. and the enlarged T-Mobile will each have more than 90 million. They are among the biggest advertisers in the country. They are holding onto their subscribers by offering unlimited data and bundling in free subscriptions to services like HBO and Netflix. All three are already rolling out faster 5G services.

      “How is a company with no track record, no wireless customers and unused spectrum a more viable competitor?,” said Matt Wood, general counsel at advocacy group Free Press, which publicly opposed the T-Mobile and Sprint deal.

      AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have built nationwide networks in pieces over decades as they acquired rivals or new airwaves licenses. T-Mobile itself will now spend years integrating Sprint’s network and customers. The incumbents updated the equipment hanging on cellular towers and the software behind their services as they moved from 3G connections to faster 4G technology, and now 5G.

      Dish plans to lean on T-Mobile while it builds a brand-new, 5G-only network that it can roll out quickly and operate differently. For example, Mr. Ergen said, Dish would be able to offer on-demand pricing, such as charging less in the middle of the night. He also plans to target businesses, such as automakers, looking for 5G connections.

      “We’ll get someplace in three years that will take the other guys 10 years,” he said.

      The agreement to use T-Mobile’s stronger network will allow Dish to attract customers beyond the cities where Sprint mostly marketed its Boost service, he said. It also lets Dish build its own network first in urban areas with many customers and use the T-Mobile network to reach rural areas that have fewer customers.

      Dish will need to add towers in all those less-populated and less-profitable areas under the deal it reached with the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department. Mr. Ergen estimates it will cost about $10 billion. But he will be able to compete for customers and generate cash from his nascent cellular business before he has to do that.

      Mr. Ergen also argues wireless pricing is broken. He says U.S. carriers have many customers paying for unlimited data plans they don’t need, much as cable companies long forced subscribers to pay for big bundles of TV channels.

      “This is deja vu all over again for us,” said Mr. Ergen. In wireless, he sees an opportunity for Dish to woo customers that use less data with lower monthly prices and those that are heavy data users with plans that don’t slow their connections.

      AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said this week he wasn’t concerned about the prospect of Dish jumping into the wireless market. “Our strategy is pretty well baked,” he told analysts on Wednesday. “The strategy is resilient as it relates to changes in industry structure.”

      Mr. Ergen has often played the role of disrupter. In 2012, Dish introduced a DVR that let consumers easily skip commercials, sparking a legal challenge from broadcasters.

      He has often brawled over programming fees with channel owners, causing blackouts on Dish’s service. The company said Friday it stopped carrying 22 regional sports networks owned by the Walt Disney Co. over a contract dispute.

      Dish has also gone without HBO since November, missing the final season of “Game of Thrones.” Mr. Ergen said HBO’s proposal was unaffordable, calling it “payback” for his company’s 2018 opposition to AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner. An HBO spokesman said the terms it offered Dish were consistent with those in place for large distributors.

      Dish launched one of the first live-TV streaming services, Sling TV, in early 2015. With a small package of channels and lower price, it made it easy for millions of people to cut their TV bill – even many of Dish’s own satellite customers.

      But with cellular service, he has vexed federal authorities and business partners with what some called broken promises. Critics said Mr. Ergen was simply hoarding the government-issued licenses while he waited for a deep-pocketed partner to buy him out. In 2015 he angered FCC officials when he won a large chunk of wireless licenses at government auction; his bid benefitted from a $3.3 billion discount designed to bring smaller players into the wireless industry. The FCC later rejected the discount, a decision that is contested. Last year, FCC officials wrote a letter that threatened to claw back some Dish licenses if it failed to launch a cellular service by March 2020.

      Mr. Ergen bristles at the notion he has been squatting on valuable airwaves. He said he simply was outbid by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. in 2013 when he tried to buy Sprint. He has been waiting for a catalyst that would allow him to compete with entrenched players. The rollout of new 5G networks is just the technology shift that makes it possible.

      “Hoarding is actually a positive for our shareholders and a positive strategic move because you needed to accumulate spectrum to go and compete with these guys,’’ he said. “It didn’t make any sense to build a 4G network and tear it all down the next year.”

      By early 2019, Dish still had no wireless customers to quell the government’s concerns. The forecast was also darkening for T-Mobile and Sprint. Their merger effort hit a snag in April, when staff lawyers at the Justice Department told the companies the deal was unlikely to earn their approval as it was structured.

      The Justice Department pressed the companies to shed enough pieces of their business to create a new fourth cellphone carrier that could step into the void left by Sprint, which had been shedding customers and struggling to turn a profit.

      The department met with representatives from potential partners including Dish and cable operators Altice USA Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. , according to people familiar with the talks. Dish emerged as an early favorite.

      Mr. Ergen said his existing airwaves licenses made his pitch to build a new cellphone carrier more credible. He said he reached a broad agreement with Mr. Legere and Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure in just four weeks of discussions in June.

      But the discussions continued for three more weeks as the Justice Department pressed the merger partners for better terms. Government lawyers insisted the settlement include no restrictions on Dish’s ability to sell assets, other than to pure competitors, or find a deep-pocketed partner after the deal.

      The Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Makan Delharim, was under the gun as government officials publicly split on the deal. FCC head Ajit Pai, a fellow Trump administration appointee, had already endorsed the T-Mobile and Sprint deal while a consortium of Democratic state attorneys general had filed a lawsuit seeking to block it, saying it would hurt consumers.

      The Justice Department wanted to make sure the final agreement would stand up in court if challenged by the states. The companies have agreed to wait to close the deal under a federal court hears the case later this year.

      Mr. Ergen will have to pay $1.4 billion for the Sprint customers and $3.6 billion in three years for the extra airwaves. T-Mobile will get the bulk of Sprint’s customers and airwaves and also have the right to buy some Dish spectrum. Sprint’s owner SoftBank gets to cash out after failing to disrupt the U.S. cellular market. The Justice Department gets to keep a fourth competitor.

      “I think three years from now, this transaction will look better than it does this week,” Mr. Ergen said. “They are gonna have real competition.”

      https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-tv-maverick-is-going-all-in-on-a-new-wireless-bet-11564200000

  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 5GservicesRFP@dish.com 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 about.dish.com
    Subscribe to DISH email alerts: http://about.dish.com/alerts
    Follow @DISHNews on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DISHNews

    SOURCE DISH Network Corporation
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dish-to-release-deployment-services-rfp-for-standalone-5g-network-buildout-300941757.html

  4. As DISH prepares to build the first virtualized, standalone 5G broadband network in the U.S., the company announced it will release a Request for Information and Request for Proposal (RFI/RFP) for Telecom Transport Services in the coming weeks.

    The Telecom Transport Services RFI/RFP, the fifth in a series of RFPs for different elements of the national network, will include requests for telecom transport service companies to facilitate lit and dark fiber connectivity to cell towers, buildings and data centers.

    DISH Executive Vice President of Wireless Operations, Jeff McSchooler stated:

    “We’re building a 5G network from the ground up, with the opportunity to apply fresh ideas and new partners. We’re seeking input from local and regional telecom transport partners, as well as the national providers that have supported our existing video business for decades. We see an opportunity to learn from nontraditional partners as well, like utilities and municipalities that may be deploying fiber in their communities. We are exploring varying transport infrastructures to support our aggressive buildout.”

    DISH has committed to building a standalone 5G broadband network available to at least 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023.

    The Telecom Transport Services RFI/RFP is the fifth such document DISH has issued as it pursues its 5G buildout. The RFPs issued to date include:

    — July 2019: 5G Network RFI/RFP seeking input for the network elements

    — September 2019: 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

    — October 2019: Deployment Services RFP seeking input for end-to-end
    deployment services including pre-construction and construction services

    — January 2020: 5G Component RFP seeking input from vendors regarding
    physical assets of the network such as mounts, cabinets and hybrid cables

    — January 2020: Telecom Transport Services RFI/RFP

    Vendors interested in receiving the Telecom Transport Services RFP can contact DISH Wireless at 5GtransportRFP@dish.com prior to January 30, 2020.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    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.

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