Dish's Ergen: 'We haven't been standing still' in building a wireless network

Charlie Ergen, CEO of Dish Network
Charlie Ergen suggested its network would primarily be focused on IoT-type use cases rather than traditional consumer cellular services.

Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen said the emergence of 5G technologies would enable the satellite-TV provider to meet the FCC’s network build-out requirements for its spectrum.

The clock is ticking for Dish to put its airwaves to use one way or another. FCC rules stipulate that the satellite-TV provider must achieve 40% signal coverage on the 700 MHz E-Block licenses it purchased in 2008 by next month, or reach a 70% buildout by March 2020. And Dish faces similar mandates for its licenses in the AWS-4 band.

Ergen suggested that Dish likely will not meet the mandate coming up next month—surprising no one—but said it is laying the foundation to meet the 2020 requirement.

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“We haven’t been standing still,” Ergen said during an earnings call with analysts Wednesday, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “So we have done a lot in preparation. Obviously, in 3GPP, you have to get your spectrum in bands that are 3GPP-authorized, which we’ve done with Bands 29, 66 and 70. So most of our spectrum now is in licensed bands. You have to do things like carrier aggregation and make sure you get different combinations where you can aggregate your spectrum, and we’ve done a lot of that.”

While Dish has not laid out its wireless plans in detail, Ergen suggested its network would primarily be focused on IoT-type use cases rather than traditional consumer cellular services. An all-IP network will be cheaper to build and operate than more traditional networks, Ergen said, paving the way for Dish to meet the deadline.

“There’s going to be a really fundamental shift in wireless technology with 5G, and you’re reading a lot about it. Because it brings lower latency, a lot faster throughput, enables Internet of Things, in particular narrowband Internet of Things for massive internet activity,” Ergen said. “So in other words, we can build a network that’s completely an IP network, take advantage of all the 5G technologies, and also take advantage of the core, for example, so that, well, the smarts are in the cloud instead of being on the tower.”

There are still some who expect Dish to leverage its spectrum through some sort of deal rather than building its own network, however. Analysts said earlier this week that Verizon has emerged as the most likely candidate to pick up Dish’s spectrum.

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