Dish’s new SVP of retail wireless gets another shot at disruption

Dish Network
Dish's new SVP of Retail Wireless Product will need to work closely with the network deployment team. (Dish)

Paul Chapple enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the team at T-Mobile when it was upsetting the wireless industry and now he’s getting another chance to be part of the team at Dish Network that’s intent on disrupting the market.

At T-Mobile, the “un-carrier” started a commotion as an existing operator in the wireless industry – one whose roots went back to VoiceStream Wireless in the 1990s. With Dish, it’s a different story in that it’s building its first 5G standalone network from the ground up, with a software-driven, virtualized and open Radio Access Network (RAN) approach at the core.

Paul Chapple
Paul Chapple

Dish’s network approach is very much entwined in what Chapple is doing as its newly appointed senior vice president of Retail Wireless Product. Part of his job is to make sure the 5G handsets are ready when the network launches. Given that Dish has acquired a hodge-podge of spectrum assets over the years, that’s not exactly a slam dunk.

The new job meant making the move to Denver from London, where he had served as director of Mobile Products & Services at Vodafone. Prior to that, he was vice president of Supplier and Product Management at T-Mobile, which is where he worked with Dave Mayo, who currently is executive vice president of Network Development at Dish.

Their prior experience working together no doubt will make the transition easier. While at T-Mobile, Chapple was part of the team that was working with suppliers on the 600 MHz road map and then, very quickly, getting 5G on the 600 MHz road map. He takes pride in how quickly they were able to get those handsets. Plus, they had “outstanding support” from Qualcomm, he noted.

“For me, it’s worked really quite well,” in that the direction is set by the network infrastructure/engineering team, whether it be at Dish or previous positions. “My team makes sure our customers have the right devices to take advantage of the network we’re building,” he said, something that wasn’t always the case in wireless.

In conversations with Dish’s network team, led by Marc Rouanne and Stephen Bye along with Mayo, “their vision for the network was so aligned and so appealing that it made it pretty easy” to make the decision to leave London and move back to the United States during the pandemic in order to work with them.   

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Dish offers a brand-new network and IT team with the flexibility to offer different service offerings without a legacy network to manage or patch. The ingredients are all there to be a disruptor, and “I’m thrilled to get to work with that,” he said.

While Apple and Samsung dominate the high-end smartphone segments, there’s still room for newer entrants to do interesting work. “There’s no shortage of handset manufacturers to talk to,” he said. The overall Android handset ecosystem could be healthier, but there are a lot of companies doing advanced, exciting work, he added.

Early in his career, Chapple held executive roles at Nokia and HTC. He was at Samsung when he heard about T-Mobile’s plan to get rid of contracts, “and I thought, this will never work, and I was very wrong” about how well that would turn out, he admits. That was back when handset subsidies were a big part of the wireless postpaid industry for many years and the leaders of wireless carriers often lamented about how they were never going to get rid of them.

It was 2013 when then-CEO John Legere announced T-Mobile would eliminate all device subsidies from its rate plans. Now, equipment installment plans, where customers pay in monthly installments for their devices, are routine.

Off to the races

The satellite-TV company-turned wireless retailer enjoys good support from the device ecosystem across its spectrum holdings, with Band 70 being one of the last bands they’re still working on, according to Chapple. That’s the licenses acquired in the AWS-4 auction.

Although it’s still relatively new to the scene, it’s worth noting that Dish already has a presence in wireless retail. Its $1.4 billion acquisition of Boost Mobile, which was part of the government’s remedy in approving the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, closed in July. In August, Dish announced it had acquired the MVNO Ting Mobile, getting a foot into the postpaid business.

Chapple reports to John Swieringa, Dish COO and executive vice president and group president of Retail Wireless. Dish hired Stephen Stokols, founder of the MVNO FreedomPop, last year to run the Boost business, and Robert Currie, previously with Canada’s Telus Communications, to run the Ting business.

There’s no word yet on where Dish is going with branding; it’s still using the Ting and Boost brands.