It is still an open question whether Dish really plans to build a wireless network in the United States, or if its moves in wireless are just part of a big chess game on the part of Dish CEO Charlie Ergen to stall until he can cash out his wireless spectrum. But today, Dish announced the hires of two senior wireless industry leaders — Marc Rouanne and Stephen Bye — adding some credibility to Dish’s legitimate network build-out plans.
Rouanne will serve as chief network officer overseeing the strategy and architecture of the network, including its core, cloud and edge. Bye will serve as chief commercial officer to lead commercialization of wireless products and to develop enterprise business relationships. Both Rouanne and Bye will join Dish as executive vice presidents and report to Ergen, starting in December.
For nearly five years, until November 2018, Rouanne was at Nokia, where he most recently served as president of mobile networks. At Nokia he helped lead the charge on next-generation networking technology, and advocated to open wireless systems that have traditionally been closed and proprietary. Under his leadership, Nokia joined groups such as the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), the O-RAN Alliance and the Open Compute Project (OCP).
"A visionary and advocate for software-defined and natively automated networks, Marc will be the ideal partner and leader as we design and build the nation's first cloud-native 5G broadband network," said Ergen, in a prepared statement.
Jennifer Fritzsche, senior analyst at Wells Fargo, said in a note this morning that much of Rouanne’s work and experience has centered around the software and O-RAN space “which we believe will be the lynchpin in Dish's 5G buildout strategy.”
Bye most recently served as CEO of Connectivity Wireless. Previously, he was president of C-Spire and CTO of Sprint. He will lead the Dish wireless enterprise development team whose mission is to market commercial applications and to establish strategic enterprise partnerships.
"He will play a critical role in developing and commercializing innovative and disruptive applications built around our unique capabilities like network slicing, flexible capacity management and massive connectivity," Ergen stated.
Fritzsche noted, “We know Bye and believe he is one of the top wireless visionaries in the space. He has strong views on spectrum and network design. In our view, he will be a significant asset to Dish as it forms its forward-looking wireless strategy.”
The Wells Fargo analysts, led by Fritzsche, also said these two hires add more credibility to the Dish wireless story.
Dish’s wireless ambitions are still contingent upon the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. But if that merger goes through, Dish is poised to enter the U.S. wireless market with the goal of becoming a facilities-based provider of a standalone 5G network.
“In our view, a key concern with the state AGs fighting the S/TMUS merger is four national wireless players going to three will create a more difficult pricing environment for the consumer,” said Fritzsche. “As Dish builds out its wireless bench and depth of talent, we believe they will offer a more tangible plan of buildout which could lessen these concerns.”
Ergen has said he envisions a greenfield network based on cloud-native and virtualized technology, following the lead of Rakuten Mobile in Japan.
“There isn't a pattern for the kind of network we are building in the United States and we need the best people in the world to make our vision of a virtualized standalone 5G broadband network a reality," said Ergen in today’s statement.
In addition to Rouanne and Bye, Ergen's direct reports include Dish President and CEO Erik Carlson; Tom Cullen, EVP of corporate development, overseeing the company's long-term strategic interests; Jeff McSchooler, EVP of wireless operations, responsible for the physical construction of the wireless network; and Jeff Blum, SVP for public policy and government affairs.