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What Is DISH Doing With Its Spectrum Holdings?

In March of 2017 DISH Network acquired $1 billion in debt to finance wireless and spectrum-related transactions. To date, the company has yet to do anything with all the spectrum that they acquired, but the FCC buildout requirements mandate that DISH reaches 70% buildout by 2020. So, what’s the plan?

There have been rumours for months that DISH is planning to partner with Amazon to create a narrow-band Internet of Things (IoT) network. While no concrete information has surfaced, investing in an IoT network does make a lot of sense. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the impact of IoT on the global economy may be as much as $6.2 trillion by 2025.

DISH Network has a lot of spectrum holdings that need to be monetized. Over the last few years, DISH has invested over $21 billion in spectrum, making it the fifth-largest holder of wireless spectrum in the United States.

While the partnership between DISH and Amazon is still nothing but a rumour, DISH is actively making steps towards meeting their 2020 FCC deadline. Currently, DISH is in the process of constructing a low power narrow-band (NB-IoT) network, which will be deployed on 700 Mhz and the AWS-4 spectrum. DISH is in talks with various other companies to get the equipment they need to begin deploying actual towers in late 2018.

All of that will be part of the first phase of DISH Network’s spectrum deployment. The second phase is scheduled to start in 2020 which will be when 600Mhz spectrum holdings are deployed to take advantage of 5G communications.

If DISH does not reach the FCC mandate of a 70% buildout by 2020 they will be forced to forfeit their spectrum holdings, which with the level of investment they have put into those holdings would be catastrophic.

Investing in an IoT network would also give DISH Network the boost it needs to continue to stay relevant. Clearly, the alarming drop in subscribers that DISH has been facing in 2017 means that the company needs to find a way to make money that isn’t based in providing television or internet access. If DISH does create a sustainable IoT business, myriad of business options will become available to them. The company could even venture into big-data analytics and other such services as the IoT devices provide massive amounts of data.

For now, all there is to do is wait and see what DISH decides to do with their spectrum. One thing’s for sure, they have to do something.


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