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Dish to raise another $500M to pay for 5G network

Dish Network is adding another $500 million in cash to bankroll its ambitious 5G network build, an effort that is also set to lose oversight by a key executive.

The nascent operator said it plans to offer $500 million in senior secured notes, with proceeds targeted at “the buildout of wireless infrastructure.” Those notes will be certainly secured by “certain assets of certain Dish Network subsidiaries.”

The note offering comes less than three months after Dish filed paperwork to raise up to $2 billion in funds to help facilitate construction of its 5G network. Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen previously stated that the full 5G network build could run the company in the neighborhood of $10 billion, which he explained could be spread out until 2025.

Dish Network launched commercial 5G services in mid-2022, just hitting a government-mandated deadline tied to some of its spectrum licenses. The initial service is using a combination of Dish Network’s AWS-4 (2 GHz), Lower 700 MHz E-Block, and AWS H-Block (1.9 GHz) spectrum licenses. That spectrum is supporting the carrier’s 5G service running through its virtualized 5G core.

Dish 5G Network Build Progress
During the carrier’s most recent earnings call, Ergen said the carrier had more than 10,000 towers now constructed with its own network and spectrum reaching more than 35% of the U.S. population. He added that the carrier remains on pace of adding around 1,000 new cell sites per month, which in connection with deploying more of its 600 MHz spectrum resources will help the carrier reach its next build milestone.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires license owners to meet specific coverage build out requirements based on a certain percentage of the U.S. population that those licenses cover. These rules vary based on different spectrum bands but are in place to ensure that a license owner is putting those licenses to work for the common good and not just sitting on those licenses to sell at a later date.

Dish is staring at a 70% population coverage obligation that hits this year. This will effectively require Dish to provide service in every U.S. city with a population greater than 500,000 people.

The carrier does have active roaming agreement with both T-Mobile US and AT&T to help support customers when they are not on Dish’s owned network. Ergen said these agreements will allow the carrier to be prudent on expansion beyond its FCC requirements, noting Dish can focus on adding cell sites that are financially advantageous and rely on its roaming partners for those that don’t make financial sense for Dish.

Bye Says Bye
The latest funding push also comes on the heels of Dish Network’s former EVP and CMO Stephen Bye stepping down from those positions and moving into a board position at the company.

Bye’s day-to-day life beginning Jan. 23 will be as president of digital media conglomerate Ziff Davis’ Connectivity division. In that role, he will oversee Ziff Davis’ Ookla, Ekahau, RootMetrics, and related properties, and report to Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah.

Bye joined Dish in late 2019 to lead the company’s wireless enterprise development team. He previously served in network executive roles at a handful of operators, including Sprint, AT&T, Cox Communications, C Spire, Optus Communications, and Telstra.

“Dish is well positioned to redefine wireless at the retail, enterprise and wholesale levels with the company’s standalone 5G network,” Bye noted in a statement. “The Dish 5G network will be invaluable for economic development in the U.S. I am honored to be joining the board and continuing to be a part of what will be one of the greatest telecom achievements in the years to come.”

Bye has been working alongside fellow Dish executive Marc Rouanne in shepherding Dish’s network build. That network is the first in the U.S. built on cloud-native principles.

Bye previously explained that rival operators are just now starting to dabble with cloud native and open radio access network (RAN) 5G technology, Dish is “already exposing APIs within that platform through the cloud.”

“I think they may put some … paint on the outside of the house, but it’s still fundamentally not a cloud-native 5G network,” Bye said. “We don’t have any of the legacy infrastructure that they have. I’d like to sort of draw an analogy like adding an extension to the house and calling it sort of a 5G network, but … you’re still stuck with the rest of the house. What we have is unique. It is the only cloud-native 5G open network that has been deployed at this scale anywhere in the world. And there are a lot of capabilities that we have with that infrastructure.”

The carrier is relying on dozens of vendors to provide its network components, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco, Dell, Nokia, VMware, Oracle, and Samsung. sdxcentral

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