Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen pointed to private networks as a key revenue opportunity for its forthcoming standalone (SA) 5G network, highlighting the potential to serve the US military and large enterprises alike.

Addressing the Department of Defence’s interest in 5G, Ergen said on a Q3 earnings call “we don’t think they should build their own network because we don’t think they need to”. Instead, he said Dish Network will be able to serve the military’s needs by creating a private network with network slicing, while simultaneously catering to “Fortune 500 companies who might have that same need”.

He noted widespread interest in 5G among executives and board members at Fortune 500 companies, adding “the use cases are endless”.

Ergen stated the company now plans to launch SA 5G in “some preliminary small markets” in Q1 2021 but doesn’t expect a major market rollout until Q3 2021. He explained timing is dependent on its supply of open RAN-compatible radio kit from Fujitsu, which is expected to ramp in the back half of 2021.

In May, Ergen said the company was aiming to launch 5G in one market by end-2020, leading with a prepaid offer and following with post-paid in 2021.

Dish Network still expects to spend $10 billion to build its next-generation network, but Ergen noted the outlay will be stretched over the course of seven years rather than three as originally planned.

The operator lost 212,000 mobile subscribers in Q3, its first as a mobile player, which executives attributed to business adjustments intended to improve the profitability of its customer base.

Profit attributable to the company increased 42.8 per cent to $504 million. Revenue increased 43 per cent to $4.5 billion, with mobile accounting for $1.3 billion of that figure.