Marek’s take: How much of Dish’s 5G launch delays are due to new technology?

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This isn’t the first time that a company outside of the telecommunications world has underestimated the difficulty of becoming a wireless service provider, so I guess I’m not surprised that Dish Network has repeatedly postponed the launch. of its 5G network.

To recap, Dish initially announced that it would launch its first 5G Las Vegas market by the end of 2020. Then the company pushed that launch date back to the first part of 2021 and then again – to the third quarter. of 2021. Now the company says it will launch “beta” to the Las Vegas market in the fourth quarter of 2021, but that beta launch will last for 90 days, meaning the network will not be available in trade before the start of 2022.

To be clear, Dish isn’t just launching any 5G network, it’s launching a new 5G network with its core network running in the public cloud and it uses open RAN technology, which is unlike any other 5G network currently in use. operation in the United States.

Still, Dish’s repeated launch delays and schedule adjustments don’t leave me particularly confident in the company’s ability to deliver on its 5G promises. And even Dish chairman Charlie Ergen seems to lack confidence in Dish’s ability to throw this party together without any problem. On the company’s second quarter earnings conference call with investors, Ergen admitted that even when the Las Vegas market is up and running, he expects problems. “Things don’t work out perfectly the first month or the first two months, and you have to build that in,” he said.

It seems the Dish Network team could have handled the expectations better. While Dish as a company is new to wireless gaming, its wireless team is not. The company has quite experienced network heavyweights on its team, including former Nokia executive Marc Rouanne, executive vice president and network manager at Dish; Stephen Bye, the company’s chief commercial officer and longtime wireless executive who has worked for Sprint, Cox Communications and regional operator C-Spire; and Dave Mayo, executive vice president of network development and former T-Mobile executive.

Interestingly, Dish appears to have organized the construction of its network differently from the way other operators manage their networks. Mayo said during the company’s second quarter earnings call that Dish had divided its U.S. coverage into four regions and 36 markets and said tower leases were signed and construction began in nearly 30 Dish markets.

What is different from other operators is that Dish’s regional general managers take care of building the network in their markets. I recently spoke with Marco Santi, General Manager of Dish for the Detroit Market. Santi said he and his 30 peers (who oversee Dish’s markets across the country) are in charge of everything – from site development to network design and operations. They take care of the construction of the network, obtain the tower permits and deal with the local municipalities. In fact, Santi said that one of the biggest challenges he faces today is getting permits to build tower sites because the local municipality is understaffed, which is just the case. one of the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, other operators also have regional market managers in different regions of the country. However, these market managers do not oversee the network. Instead, they are in charge of sales and financial performance in their region and focus on the operator’s retail stores.

Santi is well aware that his job is different from regional manager jobs at other operators, and he said he thinks it is an advantage for Dish as he can make decisions quickly and get things done faster. than a network operations team based outside the company. the seat can.

But having 30 different regional CEOs taking the lead and making decisions about the network could also prove to be tedious, especially when it comes to ensuring that the network operates consistently from market to market. other.

While this type of regional structure could help Dish quickly meet the FCC’s spectrum development deadline of covering 20% ​​of the U.S. population by June 14, 2022, it could also create challenges in the future. .

However, Dish executives also mentioned that they work closely with system integrators, so maybe these integrators will help them with any issues that come up with building Dish’s network. These ISs are also working with the company on enterprise services and Bye said in the company’s second quarter earnings calls that Dish sees a lot of interest from companies wishing to use the network. company for their business operations.

Building a wireless network from scratch isn’t easy. The industry is watching Dish closely and the pressure is on to keep its promises. Let’s see the Las Vegas market launch soon and by 2022 hopefully Dish will prove that it is a viable competitor in the wireless space.


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