Dish’s Charlie Ergen

Charlie Ergen is a FierceWireless Rising Star. (Image: Dish, Ulza/iStock)

It may seem strange to put a telecom veteran on a list of rising stars in the wireless industry, but Dish’s Charlie Ergen is just that.

Specifically, Ergen at the end of last year stepped down from his role as CEO of satellite and streaming TV provider Dish Network to focus almost exclusively on his wireless ambitions. What are those ambitions, you ask? To spend up to $10 billion building a nationwide 5G network across Dish’s extensive spectrum holdings.

Now, it’s true that Ergen’s Dish has been accumulating spectrum licenses for years now, and most analysts still believe that Dish will ultimately sell those licenses rather than embark on a costly and challenging effort to build what could be the nation’s fifth nationwide wireless network.

RELATED: Ergen goes to Washington to pitch 5G plans

But Ergen—who famously was a professional card player—increasingly appears to be sincere in his desire to jump into the wireless industry with both feet. Dish has already committed up to $1 billion to build its initial NB-IoT network, and during his appearance at the recent WIA Connect (X) show, Ergen offered a strong and compelling argument that he does in fact plan on eventually building a full-blown nationwide 5G network for the IoT.

Of course, Ergen may well ultimately decide to sell his spectrum holdings, or he might ink some kind of partnership with an existing wireless carrier like Sprint or Verizon or Comcast, in a move to preempt his grandiose plans.

But as of today, Ergen’s star in wireless—backed by his legendary business career and stated desire to grow a 5G business—is definitely on the rise.

<--Executives to watch: 13 rising stars of wireless in 2018

Dish’s Charlie Ergen