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Dish Spurns T-Mobile, Turns to AT&T for Wireless Help

The nonexclusive network services agreement deals a blow to T-Mobile and bolsters Dish's goal of covering 70% of the U.S. population by 2023.

James Anderson

July 19, 2021

3 Min Read
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The musical chairs of wireless partnerships continues — this time with AT&T and Dish Network.

The companies signed a strategic partnership that makes AT&T Dish’s primary mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). The network services agreement pays AT&T more than $5 billion over the next 10 years. Dish will use AT&T’s wireless network to expand coverage for Dish customers and support its goal of covering 70% of the U.S. population with its OpenRAN-based 5G network by 2023. On the other hand, AT&T can use the spectrum that Dish has been collecting over the last decade, though it must request it.

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Dish’s John Swieringa

Customers of Dish’s Boost Mobile, Ting Mobile and Republic Wireless retail brands will benefit from the partnership. John Swieringa, Dish’s chief operating officer and group president of retail wireless, said AT&T is offering transport and roaming services.

“Teaming with AT&T on this long-term partnership will allow us to better compete in the retail wireless market and quickly respond to changes in our customers’ evolving connectivity needs as we build our own first-of-its kind 5G network,” Swieringa said.

AT&T maintains both a “low-band” network that reportedly covers more than 250 million people, as well as a smaller but faster “high-band” (also known as mmWave) network.

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AT&T’s Thaddeus Arroyo

“Teaming with Dish on this agreement is not only a testament to the strength of our network, but it further validates the investments we’ve made in our fiber and wireless infrastructure,” AT&T Consumer CEO Thaddeus Arroyo said.

Implications

The nonexclusive deal raises all the more intrigue when we remember that Boost Mobile and Republic Wireless currently use the Sprint network that T-Mobile acquired. Dish entered the wireless market after the U.S. Justice Department ordered T-Mobile to sell Boost Mobile to Dish in order to complete its merger with Sprint. The Justice Department wanted to ensure that a fourth wireless carrier existed to ensure competition.

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GlobalData’s Tammy Parker

Tammy Parker, senior analyst at GlobalData, noted that T-Mobile and Dish haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye.

“… although Dish’s involvement [in the Justice Department deal] saved T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, the relationship between Dish and T-Mobile appears to have been fraught from the start. T-Mobile’s plans to shutter its 3G network by January 2022, leaving many of Dish’s customers without network service, has created an especially contentious standoff between the two companies, which likely helped pave the way for Dish’s new agreement with AT&T.”

Parker notes that AT&T can terminate the agreement if Dish experiences a “qualifying change of control.” In other words, if another party takes over at least half of Dish, AT&T would only need to take care of Dish MVNO customers for another two years.

But Parker predicted that Dish and AT&T will play nice with each other.

“The [network service agreement] is not exclusive for either party, so both can go out and find new dance partners; however, given the depth and breadth of this agreement, that would appear both unlikely and unnecessary,” Parker said.

Light Reading’s Jeff Baumgartner mused that the deal could pan out very well for Dish and very poorly for AT&T.

Dish has announced several different partnerships that will help it build a 5G network. The company announced in April that it would build its 5G network on AWS.

Nokia will provide the 5G standalone core, and Dell will provide Radio Access Network (RAN) and edge compute infrastructure.

AT&T, on the other hand, announced late last month that it will outsource its 5G core network to Microsoft Azure.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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