Dish has previously announced MLAs with Crown Castle International, SBA Communications, Vertical Bridge, Harmoni Towers, Mobilitie, Parallel Infrastructure, Phoenix Tower International, Tillman Infrastructure, Tower Ventures and Vogue Towers.
Dave Mayo, Dish’s executive vice president of network development, said through the American Tower agreement the carrier may lease space on up to 20,000 American Tower communications sites to support its nationwide 5G network deployment.
“Our team has already developed colocation plans for American Tower sites across the country to bring a new generation of connectivity to Americans,” he said.
Under the agreement, cash lease payments from Dish to American Tower will commence in 2022 and grow over time as Dish’s network deployment progresses. In addition, Dish may lease shared generators from American Tower on select sites and will have the ability to use American Tower’s zoning, permitting and other pre-construction services.
“We look forward to this agreement evolving into a long-term, mutually beneficial strategic partnership,” said Steve Vondran, American Tower’s executive vice president and president, U.S. Tower Division. “We believe that our nationwide portfolio of communications sites is optimally positioned to continue to serve as the backbone of today’s critical mobile broadband networks while assuring a meaningful share of new leasing activity in the marketplace.”
Back in July 2019, Dish agreed to acquire Sprint’s prepaid businesses and customers, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and the Sprint-branded prepaid service, as a part of the merger agreement of Sprint and T-Mobile, which was under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice. At that time, Dish also agreed to become a national facilities-based wireless carrier, deploy the nation’s first standalone 5G broadband network.
Dish Buys Republic Wireless
In a separate deal, Dish Network acquired Republic Wireless, an MVNO service operating on the T-Mobile network. Upon close, DISH will assume 200,000 customers, the Republic Wireless brand and other supporting assets.
After the acquisition closes, the existing Relay division of Republic Wireless will continue to operate as a standalone company and will become a wholesale customer on Dish’s 5G network. Relay provides communication and productivity solutions for frontline teams in hospitality, facilities management, manufacturing, healthcare and education, and will remain headquartered in Raleigh, NC.
Dish Network and Vertical Bridge REIT have reached a long-term agreement granting Dish access to Vertical Bridge’s portfolio of towers, rooftops, utility transmission structures, billboards, convenience stores and other sites used for wireless infrastructure deployment. Vertical Bridge has a portfolio of more than 300,000 sites in 50 states and Puerto Rico.
“Building a national 5G network requires an extensive presence across urban, suburban and rural areas, and Vertical Bridge’s portfolio offers Dish the array of coverage that we need,” said Dave Mayo, Dish executive vice president of network development. “As we continue to deploy Dish’s 5G network, Vertical Bridge’s assets, experience and commitment make them an invaluable partner.”
Alex Gellman, CEO and cofounder of Vertical Bridge, said that the tower company is committed to assisting Dish in its effort to build “a truly unique” 5G network. Just a couple days after the signing of the lease agreement, Dish had already begun signing lease agreements.
“It’s nice to get this important step behind us, so that we can really get to work on identifying sites, vetting them, leasing them and helping them get them built,” Gellman said.
In 2020, Dish became a nationwide U.S. wireless carrier through the acquisition of Boost Mobile. The company is building a cloud-native, Open RAN-based 5G broadband network. Now it is under pressure to build out a 5G network before FCC deadlines that require it to use its spectrum.
It is the second tower leasing agreement that Dish has signed. Crown Castle announced a long-term agreement with Dish last November through which the tower company will lease Dish space on up to 20,000 cell towers. Gellman said he believed Dish was drawn by the fact that Vertical Bridge is the largest private tower company and growing quickly, as well as the relationships developed over the years.
Vertical Bridge added more the 1,000 owned towers to its portfolio in 2020, including those from its acquisition of towers from Cumulus Media, its merger with Eco-Site and with newly built towers.
“Dave Mayo and I have known each other for a long time, since back when he was with T-Mobile and I was with Global Tower Partners. And a lot of his staff are known to us at Vertical Bridge,” Gellman said. “We are growing really fast. We are private, so we can be pretty flexible on some things that help them get going.”
One point of flexibility is amendments. With Vertical Bridge, the carrier can install whatever equipment it likes on a RAD center within certain wind loading criteria, as opposed to paying for each amendment to the tower.
“Bucket loading, to me, makes more sense, because it’s a real estate structure. It’s more of a square-footage play,” Gellman said. “We’re a real estate company. Our job is to deploy capital, buying and building assets, and then renting them to customers who are healthy and are happy being there. So, I don’t mind at all, a structure that allows tenants to operate efficiently in the space. It’s easy for them, and that’s good for me.”
Gellman admitted that Dish has a “gargantuan” task when it comes to building out a nationwide 5G network from scratch. He said that Vertical Bridge’s philosophy of being “fast, flexible and friendly” will help the carrier move quickly.
“We respond very, very quickly and are cognizant of how important timeliness is for them, which is important for any of our customers but especially for Dish,” Gellman said. We must be flexible with what they need so that we can help them get things done, and then the friendly part is, really, to keep an open line of communication so that we can deal with whatever may come along.”
After their company was acquired by Vertical Bridge, Eco-Site’s co-founders Dale Carey, Bob Glosson and Rich Stern joined the tower company’s executive team. Carey serves as executive vice president of strategy and convergence. Glosson is senior vice president of real estate solutions, and Stern is senior vice president of real estate.
“The other thing that’s really beneficial for us is, with the recently completed merger with Eco-Site, we added a lot of talent to our team,” Gellman said. “So we’re in a good position to really bear-hug the Dish opportunity and really apply a lot of resources to it.”
Gellman doesn’t believe the Dish agreement will result in a lot of growth for his company in 2021. “This year they’re going to be identifying and doing a lot of work on leasing sites,” he said. “I don’t think their rent will commence for until next year. So I think it’s going to be a build over time in terms of the impact on our income statement.”
Mid-year 2022 is Dish’s deadline to cover 20 percent of the population. A year later, mid-year 2013, that coverage requirement jumps to 70 percent, but Dish can get an extension if it reaches 50 percent population coverage.
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.
The federal trial to decide the fate of the State’s lawsuit against the Sprint/T-Mobile provided some new details on how Charlie Ergen, CEO of Dish Network, will build out his 5G network, if the merger goes through.
The company’s strategy for its 5G network calls for 2,500 towers by 2021, 10,000 sites by 2022, 15,000 sites by 2023, 30,000 sites by 2023 and eventually 75,000 sites, according to statistics provided by New Street Research (NSR). Dish’s NB-IoT network will comprise 1,000 sites.
“The inclusion of Dish into the T-Mobile / Sprint merger is positive for the towers in three respects: first, it eliminates the prospect of the worst-case scenario for the towers (a T-Mobile / Sprint deal without conditions); second, it will likely drive a faster network build from Dish; and third, the towers will likely capture more revenue from Dish building independently rather than with a network partner as we previously assumed,” Spencer Kurn, NSR analyst, wrote.
Since Ergen’s testimony, the Wall Street Journal reported that banks are willing to lend Ergen $10 billion to build the 5G network.
Dish Network has named wireless industry veteran Stephen Bye to its executive wireless leadership team. Bye will serve as chief commercial officer. He will join Dish as executive vice presidents and report to Dish co-founder and chairman Charlie Ergen.
“Dish is positioned to fundamentally redefine how we think about wireless at all levels, from the retail consumer to the largest enterprise and governmental use cases,” said Bye. “This greenfield network, the first in a generation, will be an engine of innovation for our economy.”
Bye, most recently CEO of Connectivity Wireless, is a 28-year veteran of telecommunications and wireless who served as President of C-Spire and CTO of Sprint. He will lead the Dish wireless enterprise development team. The team’s mission is to define, develop and market commercial applications, as well as establish strategic enterprise partnerships that are able to harness the unique architecture of DISH’s software-defined 5G broadband network.
“Stephen shares our vision for the transformative power our 5G network will deliver to consumers and enterprises of all types,” said Ergen. “He will play a critical role in developing and commercializing innovative and disruptive applications built around our unique capabilities like network slicing, flexible capacity management and massive connectivity.”
Marc Rouanne was also named to the executive wireless leadership team. Rouanne will serve as chief network officer and will also report to Ergen.
“There isn’t a pattern for the kind of network we are building in the United States and we need the best people in the world to make our vision of a virtualized standalone 5G broadband network a reality,” said Ergen. “Marc and Stephen will help lead our work to redefine the American wireless landscape to the benefit of consumers.”
As CNO, Rouanne will oversee the strategy and architecture of the network, its core, and its cloud and edge strategies.
He brings more than 20 years of international management experience in the telecommunications industry, having held executive positions including president of Mobile Networks and chief innovation and operating officer of Nokia and chairman of the board of Alcatel-Lucent. He is an advocate of opening the traditionally closed systems in wireless networks. Under his leadership, Nokia was the first large telecommunications vendor to join groups such as the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), xRAN Forum and the O-RAN Alliance.
Rouanne and Bye are expected to join DISH in December.