Dish adds more wireless ammo with Sparks, Becker hires

Dish Network
By the looks of it, Dish co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen is stitching together a formidable team of wireless experts to build a fourth network. (Dish Network)

Dish Network is adding more expertise to its wireless ranks with a couple of recent hires, including Craig Sparks, formerly of C Spire, and Steve Becker, who’s career includes roles at Sprint and Cox Communications.

Both joined the team in June and report to Stephen Bye, who joined Dish as EVP and chief commercial officer last fall.  

Sparks’ role at Dish is to oversee customer solutions integration and engineering, which includes “service delivery and integration of custom solutions for wholesale and enterprise wireless customers,” leveraging the Dish 5G network, according to a company spokesperson. He’s also responsible for technical sales support for “wholesale and enterprise customers including device planning, integration and support.”

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Sparks has been a frequent public speaker at industry events and was selected by FierceWireless as one of 13 rising star executives of wireless to watch in 2018

Becker, who serves as vice president of wholesale business development at Dish, has a number of career highlights, including work with startups and leading product, business development and strategy for Sprint’s wholesale group. He developed initial business plans for Cox Business Services and played a significant role in negotiating the Sprint/Lightsquared spectrum hosting transaction, as well as the Sprint/cable industry investment in Clearwire, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Specifically, the profile notes that he was responsible for managing strategic relationships among Sprint and its four cable industry joint venture (JV) partners – recall that Sprint had a deal going with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Brighthouse back in the 2005-2008 timeframe.

That ended up disbanding, and Becker was apparently closely involved in that endeavor, as his profile notes that he led day-to-day negotiations to change the structure of the JV to a wholesale agreement. That agreement was completed in May 2008 and was part of a broader transaction to merge Sprint’s 4G assets with Clearwire and obtain an investment in the new company from the cable partners.

Assembling the new team

Sparks and Becker are a couple of the newest members of the wireless team Dish started assembling last year as it sets forth to create a 5G network from scratch.

When Bye came on board, the company also announced Nokia veteran Marc Rouanne as chief network officer. As EVP of Wireless Operations at Dish, Jeff McSchooler leads the team responsible for the physical construction and operation of Dish’s national wireless network.

Other members of the team include Tom Cullen, EVP of corporate development; and Jeffrey Blum, EVP, external and legislative affairs, who was involved with the Department of Justice (DoJ) and FCC work related to Dish’s role in the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile.

Over the summer, Dish also announced several executive changes, including the hiring of former T-Mobile executive Dave Mayo as EVP, Network Development. Before Dish, Mayo most recently was senior vice president at T-Mobile USA, where he led T-Mobile’s IoT business and founded the company’s fixed wireless business.

RELATED: Dish adds T-Mobile veteran Mayo to network team

It’s taking a slow and methodical approach, crossing the “t’s” and dotting the “i’s,” to get its wireless expertise in place and Dish co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen is assembling a formidable team, according to industry analyst Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics.

“He’s assembling a very good team,” he said. “Absolutely, he’s filling out his roster with industry veterans. Here you have the opportunity to potentially reshape the industry. If you’re building a network now, you should build a virtualized one and that’s what they’re doing.”

On the retail side of the house, it’s a different story. As part of the deal with the U.S. government in the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, Dish acquired the prepaid Boost Mobile assets that used to be under Sprint, and it’s operating as an MVNO using T-Mobile’s network for a number of years while it builds its own Standalone (SA) 5G network.

In retail, “I think they need a lot more help. It’s a difficult undertaking,” even with experienced people, Entner said. Operating retail stores is expensive and the pandemic is accelerating questions about how many retail stores a service provider needs. Stores are important, but a lot of transactions are going online.

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