It's well known in the wireless industry that Dish Network has been amassing spectrum over the years, with the assumption that it would try to sell it to the highest bidder. Well, with the U.S. Department of Justice’s settlement with Sprint, T-Mobile and Dish announced last month, it’s clear that Dish plans to actually use some of that spectrum itself to build out a nationwide 5G network—far beyond the Narrowband IoT network that it had been pursuing.
Just how much spectrum does Dish own and where? To answer these questions, FierceWireless once again partnered with Allnet Insights & Analytics, a wireless spectrum research and analysis firm, to map out exactly how much spectrum Dish controls in the U.S.
The following maps suggest Dish owns a lot of spectrum—and a lot of different types of spectrum. Plus, if the settlement endorsed by the DoJ is ultimately approved, it’s going to get 14 MHz of 800 MHz spectrum from Sprint, and likely lease some 600 MHz to the New T-Mobile at some point. Under the terms (PDF), Dish can’t sell its AWS-4 and 600 MHz spectrum for six years without prior DoJ or FCC approval. Dish holds 486 licenses in the 600 MHz band, with at least one license in each of the 416 Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) in the U.S.
Allnet Insights President Brian Goemmer said he has typically focused on Dish's spectrum holdings in major markets, and was surprised that Dish's AWS-3 spectrum is fairly limited in rural areas. Based on his assessment, coverage is going to be Dish’s big challenge. There’s a big difference between covering all of the U.S. population versus having good enough coverage to take rural customers from AT&T and Verizon.
That’s been a problem for challengers to the incumbents for quite some time. Both Sprint and T-Mobile started out as PCS carriers without a cellular backdrop. That meant they needed to build out in more areas with spectrum that has more propagation limitations than the legacy 800 MHz that AT&T and Verizon had at their disposal. Once T-Mobile acquired its bevy of 600 MHz spectrum in the incentive auction, it was well on its way to improving its coverage situation.
Dish currently leases 850 MHz (the L1 and L2 channels) to Verizon in San Diego, Phoenix and Kansas City.