Kagan: Time for DISH Wireless to come out of the basement


What’s the future of Dish Wireless? While I love the idea, I have to say we’ve been waiting for more than a decade since they started acquiring wireless data spectrum and what have we seen so far? More recently, during the T-Mobile and Sprint merger battle, the promise was Dish would now become the fourth largest wireless provider. Still nothing.

I always questioned their ability to jump into the marketplace as a fourth-place competitor but was hoping they would at least make a serious attempt. Something. Anything.

The T-Mobile, Sprint deal was closed last spring and all we have heard ever since is crickets from Dish Network on their move into wireless.

It makes perfect sense. After all, their major pay TV competitors are all in wireless. Consider AT&T TV and AT&T Mobility, Comcast and Xfinity Mobile, Charter and Spectrum Mobile, and Altice Mobile.

So why is Dish taking forever to make the move to wireless?

Dish promised DoJ they’d build a greenfield 5G network

Dish was to build the first greenfield network in decades. That’s a fresh, from the ground up wireless network. They were not going to be resellers. At least that was the plan.

In fact, they promised to build a 5G greenfield network.

The Department of Justice said in their approval for the T-Mobile, Sprint merger that Dish cannot sell the spectrum they have to any competitor for the next six years.

In addition, Dish has to build 70% of their U.S. network within five years. Either that or they lose the spectrum they hold and pay ongoing fines.

There is more, but bottom line, the DoJ wanted a commitment from Dish that they would do what they promised and become a viable fourth place competitor in the wireless marketplace.

That’s what we have been waiting for. They seem to be acquiring companies and placing senior executives, but so far not much more.

Where’s Dish is like Where’s Waldo

Remember the childhood book, Where’s Waldo? Well, Dish Network the satellite TV company seems to have reinvented it. I call it, Where’s Dish Wireless?

Dish has a wireless web page that looks sharp, but we haven’t heard much of anything regarding their actual movement into wireless.

Have you heard or seen any advertising, marketing, products or services? Neither has anyone else. Is there a Dish Wireless store where people can go and buy a smartphone and sign up for service? What about walking into a Best Buy, Walmart or Target?

Nothing. Why not? What is their plan and their schedule? Do they even have one?

These are the questions being asked by investors, customers, workers, competitors, the analyst community and the media.

Why hasn’t Dish Wireless become a competitor yet?

Dish hired new senior executives and wireless network workers within the last year or two in order to help them build their network, marketing strategy and so on. The problem in the wireless world is this is a very complex and confusing industry.

Current leaders like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US have spent the last several decades evolving and growing with the wireless industry. They have the wireless know-how to continue to grow into the next generation of wireless called 5G.

This is a much more complex deal for Dish to pull off.

I like the idea of Dish Network getting into the wireless business. If AT&T TV can win with AT&T Mobility, Comcast can with Xfinity Mobile, and Charter can with Spectrum Mobile and Altice Mobile can, there seems to be plenty of opportunity for other companies with existing customer bases to market to.

In fact, I also expect to see other companies like COX who runs a cable television network among other things, getting into the wireless space as well.

We all assumed Dish would have jumped into the wireless space immediately after the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. However, year after year we wait and wait and wait and still nothing.

What is Dish Wireless strategy and timetable?

Dish talks about entering different segments of the wireless industry like wholesale and retail, business and consumer.

True, consumer wireless is only one segment of a larger industry. However, if I recall correctly, this was the promise made to get the T-Mobile and Sprint deal closed.

Yet, nothing.

To make investors, customers and workers feel more comfortable with this great unknown, Dish should hold regular press conferences discussing their plans and strategy and their progress.

Instead they have been too quiet for their own good.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Where’s Dish Wireless?

Unless Dish opens up to the marketplace and actually becomes the fourth-place wireless competitor after Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile, could there be a boomerang effect? Perhaps.

I still remain hopeful that Dish Network will become a real wireless competitor. I never saw them as the fourth-place wireless competitor, but at this point we know nothing and that is very unsettling.

I want to be supportive of another competitor to the industry, but they have to make the first move.

Dish Wireless must get moving. Their moment is here. As the months and years continue to pass, nothing seems to be happening.

So, Dish, what is your next move and what are your real long-term plans with regards to wireless? The marketplace is getting impatient and even your supporters are starting to get nervous. Now it the time to come out of the basement!

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