Dish Network executives dismissed doubts about the company’s ability to become a competitive force in the US mobile market following a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US, offering a glimpse at how it plans to rapidly expand its customer base and build a new 5G network from scratch.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) last week approved the deal between Sprint and T-Mobile, but demanded concessions designed to establish Dish Network as a replacement fourth player. However, critics panned the choice, citing Dish Network’s previous failure to use long-held spectrum assets as proof of a doomed outcome.

On an earnings call, Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen waved aside doubts about its credibility, noting a request for proposals from vendors to build its 5G network was issued on 29 July.

The company began work on an NB-IoT network in 2018, but executives said construction will halt and those resources redeployed for 5G. The new network build will initially focus on high-traffic areas where the company can reap the most return on investment, with rural coverage following later.

Ergen said the company hopes to have its own mobile core up and running within a year and launch in initial markets “pretty quickly”.

Building a base
In the meantime, EVP Thomas Cullen said Dish Network will offer service via an MVNO agreement with T-Mobile and will “aggressively” work to scale the subscriber base of Boost Mobile, which it is acquiring from Sprint.

Dish Network sees a particular opportunity to add Boost Mobile customers in markets beyond Sprint’s coverage areas.

“Since the T-Mobile network is far superior to the Sprint network, particularly in terms of coverage, it opens up new geographically diverse markets for us…We’ll be able to use the current Dish Network distribution and retail presence throughout the country because you’re going to be able to make the service available in a much broader geographic footprint.”

Ergen noted a provision in the DoJ’s deal with T-Mobile requiring eSIM compatibility could also work in Dish Network’s favour: “You can imagine that we like eSIM because when you don’t have many customers it’s that much easier when a customer can port their phone number and their hardware.”

But Dish Network’s ambitions aren’t limited to the consumer space. Ergen said the company believes it will have enough spectrum to serve other 5G use cases such as precision agriculture, healthcare, and smart cities in future.