Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen paid a visit to the FCC offices of Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr on May 22 to provide an update on Dish’s wireless plans, including deploying a Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network and eventually 5G.
According to an ex parte filing (PDF) dated May 24, Ergen and other Dish executives explained to the commissioners that it doesn’t serve the public interest or make business sense to build out a 4G/LTE network now that would duplicate networks already offered by the wireless incumbents and would subsequently require an almost immediate upgrade in order to be competitive.
Instead, Dish plans to initially deploy a network focused on supporting internet of things (IoT)—which it says will be the first to be deployed in its licensed spectrum bands anywhere in the world. Dish has AWS-4, 700 MHz E Block and H Block licenses to use for the IoT network. It also plans to use its other spectrum holdings, including 600 MHz, as part of phase two of its build-out to support 5G.
Ergen told an audience at the WIA Connect (X) trade show on May 23 that Dish is now going to spend at least $10 billion or more on a 5G network, and it’s going to act much like a startup in the wireless industry, similar to what it did when it entered the satellite TV business several decades ago.
Dish may be one of the relatively rare operators to go straight to the Standalone (SA) version of 5G, rather than deploy the Non-Standalone (NSA) version first. Most operators are expected to first deploy NSA, which was ratified by 3GPP last December, and it requires an LTE network. The SA version of the standard, which was the subject of 3GPP meetings this past week, does not rely on LTE. Hence, since Dish is skipping the build-out of an LTE network, it makes sense to use the SA version.
But it’s still got some coordination/timing issues when it comes to the 600 MHz spectrum. There’s a build-out deadline for the AWS-4 and 700 MHz E block of March 2020, but the 600 MHz licenses will not be fully cleared of TV broadcasters until at least July 2020.
“In light of the March 2020 deadline, balanced against the timeline for relevant standard-setting and the clearing of 600 MHz, DISH believes its plan to roll out its network with current NB-IoT technology, with future upgrades to 5G, is the most logical and prudent path,” Dish told the commission.
Dish also noted that it has entered into a variety of contracts to realize its near-term and long-term network build-out objectives and has many other contracts in negotiation. In the first quarter of 2018, Dish entered into Master Lease Agreements with more than a dozen tower companies, both national and regional, and throughout 2018 it’s been signing agreements with regional and nationwide vendors to perform site acquisition, installation and other construction services.
All of these activities are notable given the years in which Dish acquired spectrum while the wireless industry watched, assuming it would sell the spectrum as opposed to actually build a network.
Dish’s recent meetings at the FCC also show it’s still interested in the 12 GHz band. Dish was part of a MVDDS 5G Coalition that filed a petition asking the commission to initiate a rule-making proceeding designed to permit MVDDS licensees to use their 12.2-12.7 GHz spectrum to provide a two-way 5G mobile broadband service. Dish says the 12 GHz band possesses favorable technical and other characteristics that make it ideally suited for the deployment of 5G services, and that acting on the coalition’s request would help unleash an additional 500 MHz of contiguous spectrum for 5G.