Dish still plans to buy Boost Mobile, but mum's the word on 5G rollouts

Dish still plans to buy Boost Mobile, but mum's the word on 5G rollouts
If you're the least bit familiar with the background information of the long-delayed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint that was finally sealed on April 1, you probably already know a third company actually played a crucial role in getting the transaction across the finish line.

We're talking about Dish, a name primarily associated with the satellite TV industry despite sitting on a treasure trove of wireless spectrum that could have allowed Charlie Ergen's outfit to join the mobile network operator game a long time ago. Leaving these sketchy hoarding tactics aside, Ergen solemnly promised during the most important legal proceedings for the approval of the aforementioned merger that his company would be prepared to replace Sprint as the nation's fourth-largest wireless service provider on "day one."

Of course, Dish's strategy to enter the market and quickly become a force to be reckoned with involves a number of moving parts, one of which was impossible to anticipate six, nine, or twelve months ago. Although it's getting clearer and clearer that the coronavirus pandemic will throw a monkey wrench into the company's lofty 5G rollout plans, Dish continues to refuse any and all communication on the matter.

For what it's worth, at least the folks over at Light Reading have managed to obtain confirmation the Boost Mobile acquisition is still in the cards. This is likely to close by the end of the current quarter (no later than June, that is), transferring more than 9 million prepaid customers from Sprint's subsidiary to new supervision by Dish Network.

A timid start and an uncertain future

While Dish will not instantly become a major wireless player as a result of the $1.4 billion transaction, this was merely supposed to be the beginning of an aggressive business integration and expansion strategy. Unfortunately, Boost is widely seen as a dying brand, and its ever-shrinking subscriber numbers might prove difficult to, well, boost in the short run due to the many financial difficulties caused by COVID-19.

Interestingly, industry analysts don't expect the two companies to revisit the negotiation table at the eleventh hour, even though Dish could argue Boost Mobile's value has significantly eroded since July 2019. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Dish still aims to be "disruptive as far as wireless pricing goes" after taking over Boost's faltering business and becoming a T-Mobile MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), as promised last year. 

More importantly, we're curious to see if the company will be able to meet the requirements set by the Department of Justice as part of a three-way deal signed last July. Under those terms, Dish committed to providing a 5G signal for 70 percent of the US population by June 2023, which always seemed unlikely but now feels outright utopian. 

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Given the extraordinary circumstances realistically expected to lead to major delays in nationwide 5G deployments, Dish may well be granted an extension of that deadline by the DOJ or get to dodge the penalties initially agreed upon. That certainly seems fair given how hard it might prove for the company to secure essential financing in this very uncertain economic climate, but let's just hope Charlie Ergen will not end up abusing the leeway Dish is likely to receive from US government agencies like the FCC... yet again.

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