Dish is expected to meet its FCC mandated 5G coverage target on June 14

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The biggest obstacle T-Mobile faced when it announced it was going to buy Sprint on April 29, 2018, was the same roadblock that prevented previous attempts at a Sprint-T-Mobile merger from getting off the ground. You could say that math was the problem. The Justice Department feared that Sprint’s disappearance from the mobile landscape would reduce competition in the wireless sector by 25%.

The DOJ feared that the lack of a fourth wireless competitor would cause wireless carriers to raise prices significantly

By cutting competition by such a large amount, regulators feared the merger would leave the industry with just three major wireless carriers in the states, leading to higher prices for consumers. To replace Sprint as the “fourth nationwide facility-based network competitor,” Dish Network stepped in. This wasn’t entirely surprising, since Dish chairman Charles Ergen had always proclaimed that he wanted to run a wireless business.

Dish says it is on track to comply with an FCC mandate agreed as part of T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint. Dish must provide 20% of the country’s population with 5G signals by June 14. According to Heavy wireless, Dish Network is expected to meet this demand. Currently, Dish is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning that as it builds out its own 5G network, it will support carriers such as T-Mobile and AT&T for wireless service that turns it around and sells to the public at retail prices.
By June 14 next year, it must cover 70% of the US or more with wireless service with a download speed of 35 Mbps or faster, to be verified by a disk test. Meanwhile, Dish is building its own standalone 5G network that uses end-to-end 5G technology. Non-standalone 5G networks offer services that use 5G along with older technologies, including 4G/LTE.

Analysts covering the wireless sector believe that Dish Wireless will still need to operate as a voice services MVNO, even within the 20% of the country covered by Dish’s 5G signal as of June 14. That was confirmed by Dish’s Ergen last month when he said Dish Wireless would first use its own 5G signals “for data.” Ergen also noted that Dish’s 5G service “would be less robust at first” than he had hoped.

Dish may still need to rely on its MVNO partners to deliver 5G voice services

Some other carriers continue to rely on VoLTE (voice over LTE), despite using a network with a 5G core. One of those providers is surprisingly the American 5G leader T-Mobile. New Street Research analysts say: “We understand that making standalone 5G voice services (called VoNR or ‘voice over new radio’) work seamlessly for the entire industry has proved challenging.”

New Street continues by saying, “While VoNR works for Dish in Las Vegas, we feel it has been difficult to optimize it in other markets, and in particular to get seamless transfers between VoNR on Dish’s network and VoLTE on AT&T or T-Mobile’s network when a customer goes outside of Dish’s network coverage and goes to the MVNOs.”

Despite issues with VoNR (much like T-Mobile is), New Street says Dish will meet regulatory requirements for 20% of the US with its 5G service in a week from this Tuesday. “Based on our reading of Dish’s commitment to offer ‘5G broadband service’, it seems unlikely to us that Dish will be deemed not to have achieved 20% coverage if they rely on the MVNOs from the outset for voice services within that range. coverage, while using only their own network for broadband services.”

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