Dish's spectrum 'a very loaded gun' to meet demand for the IoT

Dish is looking to leverage its spectrum assets by building a network dedicated to the IoT.

Dish Network’s spectrum is “a very loaded gun” as the company prepares to launch a network to meet demand for the IoT, according to Mosaik Solutions.

Dish co-founder Charlie Ergen stepped down from his role as CEO last week to focus on building an NB-IoT network using its spectrum to provide connectivity to a wide range of devices other than traditional tablets and smartphones. The satellite TV provider has gradually compiled a significant amount of spectrum via auctions and secondary-market transactions, and it has amassed a particularly sizable chunk of midband airwaves, as illustrated by this map from Mosaik:

“From a footprint perspective, they have enough to build out a national network with capacity to spare,” noted Andrew Miceli, Mosaik’s vice president of global sales and marketing. “Dish really is a very loaded gun, the question is will they pull the trigger and more importantly, will the offerings, assuming a 5G deployment, be compelling and differentiated enough to provide a significant enough ROI.”

Dish spent $6.2 billion to buy licenses during the auction of 600 MHz earlier this year, far exceeding the expectations of most analysts. And Ergen has said the company placed a high priority on the potential number of connected devices—not people, or POPs—as it maps out its IoT strategy.

To offer some sense of context, Mosaik also provided this map of T-Mobile’s 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 the end of the month, or reach a 70% buildout by March 2020. And Dish faces similar mandates for its licenses in the AWS-4 band. Dish said last month that it expects to sign its first deals with tower companies early next year as it plots its NB-IoT buildout, and it has already finalized deals with multiple vendors of telecom gear.

“We are still focused on the narrowband IoT build as we shared in March with the FCC; had a very good quarter in terms of progress. We’ve finalized contracts with more than one global vendor for radio access equipment and other associated equipment that goes on towers,” said Tom Cullen, Dish’s executive vice president of corporate development, in a November earnings call transcribed by Seeking Alpha.