Dish remains committed to splashing the cash on additional T-Mobile 5G spectrum
Although T-Mobile and Dish Network entered into a key preliminary agreement for the successful conclusion of the former wireless service provider's merger with Sprint over a year ago, the two companies needed a little more time than expected to seal their $1.4 billion deal.
Of course, all's well that ends well, but at least as far as Dish is concerned, the Boost Mobile acquisition is merely the beginning of an ambitious Sprint-replacing plan likely to stretch over several years. The nation's new number four carrier is starting off with a modest nine million customers or so, but Charlie Ergen's long-term goal is to considerably boost (no pun intended) that subscriber base by building America's "first standalone 5G network."
You can never own too much spectrum
Billed as the "Netflix" to Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile's "Blockbuster" networks due to the more sophisticated and cost-effective technology expected to be employed starting later this year, the nationwide buildout and subsequent rollout will still require hefty investments on Dish's part.
That being said, company co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen has been known to focus on wireless spectrum purchases over the years, a controversial move that's putting Dish in a very favorable position all of a sudden.
After hoarding all that spectrum with no apparent intention of putting it to good use, the time has finally come to actually deploy said technology as part of the aforementioned "standalone 5G network." But Ergen's thirst for 5G spectrum seems unquenchable, with yet another major transaction of that sort expected to be completed at some point in 2023.
Said deal, worth approximately $3.6 billion, is actually tied to the divestiture of Sprint's prepaid business, with its details buried somewhere in the middle of the recent SEC paperwork filed by T-Mobile. Granted, a lot can change between now and 2023, and given that Dish is facing a modest penalty of approximately $72 million if the transaction is not closed, Ergen could well back out of the deal at any point in the next three years.
Dish and T-Mobile are buddying up against Verizon
At least for the time being, the company looks serious about its 5G ambitions, expected to initially rely on 600MHz low-band and 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum, much like T-Mobile itself. In case you're wondering, Dish's resources in those two fields are already largely tied with Verizon's belongings, although Big Red is reportedly preparing to splash out on a key upcoming 3.5GHz CBRS auction to try to close the gap to "New T-Mobile", whose incredible recent 5G breakthroughs and advancements were made possible by the so-called "layer cake" strategy.
This couldn't have happened without Sprint's valuable former mid-band spectrum, but because Magenta already managed to launch a nationwide low-band 5G network, some of the "Now Network's" related properties are not seen as essential for T-Mo's industry-conquering plans going forward.
That's where Dish is expected to come in three years down the line, taking a whopping 13.5MHz of 800MHz spectrum off T-Mobile's hands in what sounds like an ideal win - win scenario. The agreement further specifies the "Un-carrier" will be able to lease back from Dish "a portion" of the spectrum sold "as needed" for an additional two years following the closing of the $3.6 billion deal.
The low-band 800MHz licenses Ergen is committed to buying, at least for the time being, could help Dish's emerging 5G network cover large areas, including in underserved rural communities, but when it comes to download speeds, the technology is unlikely to prove far superior to T-Mobile's 600MHz low-band network, which is often slower than the competition's 4G LTE signal.