The big question in the wireless industry is no longer what will Charlie Ergen do, but when will he do it. During Dish Network’s fourth quarter earnings call, top executives did not give up too many details but revealed that the new 5G network will use open RAN vender-neutral technology.
“We want to start deploying later in 2020,” said Timothy Messner, Dish general counsel. “We’re very cognizant of the FCC obligations that we’ve made, and we actually look forward to beating them.”
Job one is to integrate with the Boost Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator, so Dish will be operational as soon as it is possible, according to Messner. The architecture of the network must also be finalized, contracts with multiple vendors must be finalized and deployments must be planned.
Erik Carlson, Dish president and CEO, did not speak with a much of a sense of urgency when it came to tower deployment.
“The big picture is, because we have the use the T-Mobile network for seven years along with some of the towers, we have a pretty big safety net. It gives [us] a little bit more leeway in terms of how we build our network,” Carlson said.
As part of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, Dish will have access to 25,000 towers and retail stores that will be vacated by Sprint. Perhaps the speed of Dish’s buildout will be tempered by the pace of T-Mobile’s decommissioning of Sprint sites. Ergen, Dish chairman, would not signal his next move concerning tower deployment, but he did note that using Sprint’s towers, many of which are owned by Crown Castle, would be economical.
“T-Mobile is not allowed to squat on the towers, and they are required to give us notice when they’re going to vacate a tower,” Ergen said. “That probably helps on the margin on our buildout and perhaps reduces some of our costs.”
John Swieringa, chief operating officer at Dish, added that the newly available RAD centers of the decommissioned Sprint sites would be at attractive heights, so Dish will be watching closely as the towers become open.
Dish’s strategy is to use its ample spectrum (100 megahertz in some markets) over a low-cost network, which will compete on price. To do this , the carrier will employ alternate methods to build its network for less money through strategic partners and operate it for less. The architecture that Dish has decided on is open RAN (ORAN), which also lowers costs.
“We have fewer people because of automation and our network is primarily going to be software and will be in the cloud, versus the carriers’ hardware networks today,” Ergen said.
Carlson added that none of the existing carriers use ORAN, which requires less proprietary equipment. “But that is without question the way a modern network should be architected. And once you architect it that way, it opens up a whole different set of range of options,” he said.
Marc Rouanne, Dish chief network officer, explained that Dish has been working on ORAN for the last few months and that he sees it as a trend in wireless infrastructure because it reduces the changeout of radios as a network evolves.
“You put the radio on top of the tower and then you can do whatever you want on the rest of the network. It will never impact again your radio. So, you can choose the vendors, but you can also have long-term sustainability of your radio deployments,” he said.
Quotes courtesy The Motley Fool.