The highly anticipated Dish 5G network rollout starts with a delay

The highly anticipated Dish 5G network rollout starts with a delay
The fourth-largest US wireless service provider as of Sprint's recent disappearance is moving ahead with its ambitious plans of challenging the industry status quo, but if anyone expected to actually be able to use the incredibly advanced Dish 5G network this year, the latest news on the rookie carrier's buildout front may come as a rather unpleasant surprise.

According to a new Form 10-Q filing noticed by the eagle-eyed market watchers over at Fierce Wireless, Dish anticipates the "initial launch of consumer beta" 5G service to happen sometime during the final quarter of 2021.

That could be less than a couple of months (or more than four months) away, which is not an incredibly long time to wait, but it does slightly move the finish line from a Q3 objective highlighted a few times before, most recently in April.

2022 is when the action will begin in earnest

Keep in mind that Dish is also not ready to commit to this revised first stage of its 5G network rollout schedule for any other market beside Las Vegas, where said deployment is expected to be "substantially complete" by the end of the third quarter.

That may not sound very promising, but it does suggest adventurous beta testers in Vegas will be allowed to try out this hot new 5G service, once billed as the "Netflix" to everyone else's cellular "Blockbuster", earlier than December.

Cities like Orlando, Florida and Washington, D.C. should follow suit with beta tests of their own relatively quickly (perhaps even by the end of 2021 as well), but of course, it's not entirely clear if this "beta" program will be public and open to anyone.

What seems crystal clear is that we'll have to wait until 2022 to see just how serious a threat Dish needs to be taken by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T in the still-budding 5G landscape. T-Mobile and AT&T, remember, are at the same time Dish's enemies and allies, although the latter status may not be connected to the "Un-carrier's" name much longer.

We can obviously expect Dish to primarily target its own Boost Mobile customers for a migration to this 5G network and a new postpaid wireless brand slated for a 2022 debut. Acquired from T-Mobile under the terms of Magenta's mammoth Sprint merger deal, Boost counts a little less than 9 million subscribers as of the end of Q1 2021.

That number is down by 201,000 net subscribers from Dish's Q1 total, a loss that the satellite TV veteran attributes to various "operational changes, competitive pressures, ongoing optimizations to the existing business and wireless device shortages."

Solid overall financial figures, promising wireless future

By no means a good result for a company looking to add millions and millions of mobile customers in the next years in a bid for industry relevance, that decline was actually smaller than what many analysts predicted for Q2.

Going forward, the same analysts continue to believe in the company's potential to "disrupt the wireless industry as we know it" while reiterating their warning about said prospective disruption being unlikely to happen sooner than several years down the line.

Another concern that Dish has yet to quash refers to the costs of a 5G network construction undertaking from scratch, which Charlie Ergen's outfit has long estimated at a modest $10 billion. The flamboyant and controversial co-founder and chairman is expected to up that projection soon enough, which could make investors and key partners like Amazon nervous.

On the bright side, the company's overall financial performance remains robust, with its operating businesses generating a cool $2.5 billion in cash over the last year alone, thus creating a comfortable cushion for its 5G network development efforts to continue unperturbed. 

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless