Dish has been making a lot of announcements about the 5G wireless network it plans to build. But the company hasn’t said much about how it will fund network construction – and that’s creating a lot of speculation in the market.
Boost Mobile America founder Peter Adderton told investor website Seeking Alpha that Dish may partner with Amazon on the network and that Amazon may use the network to offer its own mobile service. Dish acquired Boost Mobile, Sprint’s pre-paid business, last year when regulators required its sale as a condition of approval of the Sprint T-Mobile merger.
Dish has said it needs $10 billion to build out the 5G network, according to Adderton, who believes the actual cost may be closer to $20 billion, according to the report.
Dish 5G Network
Telecom financial researchers at MoffettNathanson Research joined in on the speculation with a research note today.
The researchers noted that Dish might not need a partner but that self-funding is likely to be increasingly difficult for a Dish 5G network, whose traditional satellite television business has been in decline for 12 years. The Boost Mobile business also has lost subscribers in both quarters that Dish has owned it, the researchers note.
Other observations from the MoffettNathanson Research note:
T-Mobile has informed Dish that it plans to decommission its 3G CDMA network around the beginning of next year. Dish currently relies on that network to support the Boost Mobile business.
“Remarkably, ‘a majority’ of Dish’s retail wireless subscribers still get services through CDMA,” researchers wrote in today’s note. “That means Dish will need to provide new devices for a huge number of customers before the year ends. All this could cause ‘a significant disruption to our retail wireless subscriber base which could result in, among other things, a significant increase in our churn rate.’”
One bit of good news on the Boost business—margins are up, thanks to cost cutting. But the question there is whether the margins are sustainable.
Dish’s vMVPD business, Sling TV, gained subscribers for the second quarter but growth has been “painfully slow” for the business and margins are likely slim or non-existent, according to the researchers.
Overall, MoffettNathanson is unenthusiastic about the vMVPD market, which offers traditional cable programming over an internet connection. The researchers have argued previously that subscription video on demand offerings such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have stronger market appeal.
We should know more about one of Dish’s key wireless network expenses soon. The company was a bidder in the C-band auction, which set records by raising more than $80 billion, and although we don’t know what spectrum the company may have won, it likely paid top dollar for whatever it did potentially win.
The FCC is expected to release a winning bidder list soon.