Dish Expands 5G Ahead of FCC Deadline: Here’s What You Need to Know

What’s going on

Dish, the fourth-largest US carrier, says it has expanded 5G in 120 cities.

why does it matter

Dish took on its fourth carrier role when Sprint and T-Mobile merged, and the FCC has been under pressure to roll out the service. It is supposed to be a viable competitor to its bigger rivals.

Whats Next

Dish will still need to provide more clarity on the service, which remains invite-only for now.

Dish Network on Tuesday updated its Project Genesis site to say that 5G service is active in more than 120 cities, marking a claim for national coverage amid a Federal Communications Commission deadline to roll out service to at least a fifth of the country’s population.

The announcement, an unexpected change from the morning when Las Vegas was the only city live, could signal that the company, widely known for its satellite TV service, is finally getting serious about the wireless business. Dish acquired wireless spectrum for years, but very little of a wireless network materialized. Then in 2020, Dish entered the mobile market by acquiring some of Sprint’s mobile licenses, which Sprint was losing as part of its merger with T-Mobile. The complex transaction suddenly made Dish the fourth largest carrier in the country and led to the creation of the Dish Wireless service.

But the FCC had a stipulation. To ensure competition, the regulatory agency required Dish to ensure that 20% of Americans were covered by its 5G network by June 14. It’s unclear whether the 120 cities Dish activated meet that threshold and how many people the service covers. The “beta list” of the service is only available by invitation.

Dish was not available for comment, but Stephen Stokols, CEO of Dish-owned Boost Mobile, tweeted that 5G service is now available in 120 cities and is linked to the Project Genesis site. When contacted for comment, the FCC clarified that Dish must submit status reports to the agency, with the first due July 14.

“Consumers benefit when there is more competition in our wireless industry,” an FCC spokesperson said by email. “We are closely monitoring DISH’s 5G build to ensure they meet all requirements of the law.”

A host of problems have conspired to trip up Dish. The company acknowledged during an earnings call earlier this year that it had underestimated the amount of work it would take to get its own 5G network up and running. Supply chain problems only made the situation worse.

It’s unclear whether Dish will suffer any consequences if it misses the deadline. Neither Dish nor the FCC responded to a request for comment.

Here’s what you need to know about Dish’s 5G plans:

Why did the FCC impose this requirement on Dish?

The deadline is the result of a big change in the US wireless industry two years ago, when T-Mobile and Sprint combined in a $26.5 billion deal. The FCC came close to nullifying the deal over concerns that it would lead to market concentration by driving one operator out of the market. Only AT&T, Verizon and the new T-Mobile would remain.

But Dish, which tried to add mobile service to its satellite TV offerings a decade ago, saw the operator’s consolidation as an opportunity to become a mobile player. The company paid $5 billion for Boost Mobile, Sprint’s prepaid mobile brand, as well as Sprint’s 800 MHz wireless spectrum specifically for 5G. Dish also secured the rights to use part of T-Mobile’s 5G network.

Dish still needed to build its own 5G network, a task it started mostly from scratch. To ensure that Dish mobile customers have strong service, the FCC originally set a March 7, 2020 deadline for the company to have its 5G network up and running. The FCC also stipulated that coverage should reach 20% of the US population.

However, the deadline was pushed back several times at Dish’s request. The latest deadline has been set for June 14, 2022. Dish chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen decided not to request another extension and hoped the carrier would meet the FCC deadline, news site Fierce Wireless reported. in May.

Did dish meet the deadline?

Dish updated its Project Genesis website on deadline day to say its 5G network has reached more than 120 cities. But we don’t know how many people in those cities are covered by the network, and therefore whether Dish has met its goal of covering 20% ​​of the US population by June 14. Under FCC terms, missing the deadline could result in the revocation of Dish’s license for wireless spectrum and fines of up to $2.2 billion, news site Light Reading reported earlier this year.

How advanced is Dish’s 5G network?

In early May, Dish made its 5G service available to the public in Las Vegas. Customers sign up for the service through “Project Genesis,” an early access program that costs $30 per month and is currently only available on Motorola Edge Plus phones. (Service plans support other phones in the future.)

In February, Dish had said that its 5G service would be available in more than two dozen cities before the June deadline. And after the Las Vegas service was launched to the public, the operator published a list of 113 cities it planned to include in Project Genesis. Recently, on its first-quarter earnings call in May, Dish had said it was confident it would turn on 5G service in enough cities to reach 20% of the US population before the June deadline.

The carrier didn’t make public where 5G service was beyond its first city until today, when it suddenly listed more than 120 more cities that now have active service on the Project Genesis site. The service is still by invitation only and we don’t know what area of ​​each city is covered.

In addition to securing Sprint’s 800 MHz range, Dish has also bid in several separate auctions for 5G spectrum licenses. These include spending $7.3 billion in January on mid-band 5G on 3.45 GHz spectrum and $913 million on so-called C-band 5G in 2020. Combined, the connected 5G chunks of spectrum will serve as the backbone of your service. .

While Dish may use some of T-Mobile’s 5G spectrum for years to come as part of deals between the carriers, Dish also paid AT&T at least $5 billion in July 2021 for a 10-year contract to lean on the latter’s 5G network while building its own infrastructure.

Why did Dish take so long?

Unlike other carriers, who built their 5G networks on top of existing 4G LTE, Dish has been building its network more or less from scratch. It is also building the service on OpenRAN, a flexible type of cellular network that uses multi-vendor infrastructure.

Dish executives have acknowledged that they underestimated the work it would take to build their network and had not anticipated supply chain problems.

Update, 1 pm PT and 3:345 pm PT: To include more details of the Genesis Project site and the 120 new cities.

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