A key component of the Sprint and T-Mobile merger is Dish establishing a 5G network that can provide service to at least 70 percent of Americans by June 2023. In addition, it must provide service to 20 percent of Americans by June 2022 and is targeting the third quarter of 2021 for deployment in Las Vegas.
Sprint And T-Mobile Merger
T-Mobile acquiring Sprint meant that Americans would have a choice of only three major carriers down from four. Recognizing that this would not be a good thing for consumers, FCC regulators required T-Mobile to agree to a set of conditions that would help Dish establish itself as the fourth carrier. This included selling Dish to certain businesses, such as Boost Mobile, and providing it access to its network. Even when negotiations for this deal were ongoing, critics feared that it depended too much on T-Mobile doing the right thing. The deal certainly depends on Dish as well, but at least, in that case, there is a great deal of motivation for Dish to live up to its promises. The same cannot be said for T-Mobile.
The Dish 5G Network
The goal from the FCC perspective is to have four major carriers providing Americans with a 5G service. The Dish commitment is to have its service in place and available to 70 percent of Americans by June 2023. That seemed and continues to seem rather ambitious, but Dish has partnered with Amazon. This will be the first cellular network in the U.S. built in the cloud, and Amazon asserts that a cloud-based network allows for a rollout that is faster and more efficient because it is less reliant on hardware.
Dish Losing Customers
But not everything has gone according to plan. Almost immediately after the deal was in place, T-Mobile became difficult to work with from a Dish perspective. In fact, Dish struck a deal with competitor AT&T and stated that it would minimize the use of the T-Mobile platform as much as possible. The deal also required that T-Mobile sell Dish customers and that it does not act in an anticompetitive manner. But T-Mobile already has an attractive promotion in place aimed specifically at the customers it had to sell to Dish. Dish has already lost more than 150,000 customers in the first quarter of 2021 and more than 200,000 in the second quarter.
The Beta Period
The beta period is essential to the long-term success of the Dish 5G network. It is on schedule to go live by the end of September, which is in line with the original goal of the third quarter. It will then run throughout the fourth quarter, in which Dish and Amazon will be paying close attention to customer feedback and making adjustments. The hope is that by the end of 2021, Las Vegas will serve as a blueprint that can easily be put in place in other markets.
Anyone who wishes to participate in the beta can sign up through the Project Genesis website. Meanwhile, the telecom world will be looking on with great interest. Most will agree that it is better for all of us if Dish succeeds. But there is no guarantee of that, and we currently exist within the competitive environment that the FCC had feared. So far, it seems has consumers have been largely unaffected, but if Dish fails to fill the void left by Sprint, a lot could change in the next several years.