Dish Network is adding yet another entity to its wireless retail business, with plans to acquire Republic Wireless, an MVNO using T-Mobile’s network. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The deal means Dish will acquire about 200,000 customer relationships, the Republic Wireless brand and other supporting assets. Republic customers will not see any immediate changes to their service or plans, according to Dish.
Republic Wireless was formed in 2011 and launched as an MVNO using Sprint’s network. It was one of the first “Wi-Fi first” service providers, a model shared by Google Fi, where customers’ first chance for a wireless connection is Wi-Fi and it reverts to cellular when Wi-Fi isn’t available or satisfactory. Engineers at Republic also worked hard to perfect a “bonded technology,” designed to improve the customer experience.
"Republic has created a loyal following and established a brand known for innovation, customer service and value. We plan to build upon that strong foundation," said John Swieringa, group president, Retail Wireless and Dish COO, in a statement. "As we continue to grow our retail wireless business, Republic broadens our existing customer base and positions us to deliver even more value to the market, expanding our portfolio of mobile solutions to meet a variety of customer needs."
The leaders of Republic, including co-founder Chris Chuang, will not be coming on board, but Swieringa gave a shout-out to Chuang in a LinkedIn post today, saying they’ll be working together to welcome Republic Wireless customers to Dish.
The Republic Wireless team will be led by Robert Currie, who’s actively hiring to support the initiative. For that matter, Swieringa also mentioned that Stephen Stokols, who heads the Boost Mobile group, and Paul Chapple, newly appointed senior vice president of Retail Wireless Product, are also hiring to support initiatives in the Dish wireless retail group.
It's important to note that Dish does not plan on combining the brands. “We'll have more to share on go-to-market strategy and operations post-close, but we anticipate Republic becoming part of our 5G distribution,” a spokesperson told Fierce.
The transaction also involves the Relay division, which is focused on solutions for frontline teams in hospitals, healthcare, education, facilities management and manufacturing.
Plans call for Relay to become a wholesale customer for Dish’s 5G network. The timing of that is unknown, but the acquisition will get them in the door with those enterprises, noted William Ho, principal analyst at 556 Ventures.
“That’s kind of an entry in the IoT and enterprise space,” Ho said, noting Dish had been pursuing a national IoT network build before halting it to focus on building a stand-alone 5G network. Having Relay sales and networks teams already in place will make it easier in approaching those enterprises rather starting from scratch.
The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.
Retail acquisition spree
Dish has been on a bit of an acquisition spree since it entered the wireless retail business last year. As part of the government’s remedy in the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, T-Mobile was required to sell Sprint’s prepaid Boost Mobile business to Dish. The $1.4 billion Boost acquisition of about 9 million subscribers closed on July 1.
About a month later, Dish announced it would use Tucows’ technology platform for its newly acquired wireless retail business and acquire about 271,700 Ting Mobile subscribers as part of that deal. Like Boost customers, Dish said Ting Mobile subscribers would have access to the new T-Mobile network as part of a 7-year MVNO agreement.
During Dish’s most recent earnings conference call, Swieringa talked about receiving notice from T-Mobile that Sprint’s voice CDMA network will be shutting down on or around January 1, 2022. That’s creating a costly handset migration problem for Dish, as a lot of Boost’s customers use the CDMA network and they’re not ready to flip them over to Dish’s 5G network.
That means economically challenged Boost customers will need to upgrade to new handsets in the interim, and running the numbers on that, “there would be significant fallout from that,” Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said during the earnings call.