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How Much Spectrum Does DISH Own?

DISH Network made a name for itself as a premier satellite-services-based broadcasting company. Recently, the company has become well known for its exemplary OTT streaming service Sling TV. However, as the popularity of streaming services continues to chip away at the power of traditional pay-TV providers, DISH is looking to make itself known for something else: wireless services. That’s why they have spent so much of their time and money over the last few years investing in spectrum. So, what exactly is spectrum and how much spectrum does DISH Network own? Let’s take a closer look.

From a high level, broadcast spectrum is the frequencies of electromagnetic waves that broadcasting companies use to transmit the signals needed for consumers to receive their content. If you are using a cell phone, you are using spectrum. If any company wants to create something like a 5G network, they need to own spectrum to do so.

That is why DISH Network has spent roughly $20 billion over the last decade amassing a significant spectrum portfolio. That investment is already worth over $30 billion, according to most industry experts. However, since there is a limited number of spectrum available, all spectrum is managed by the FCC. The FCC has given DISH a deadline of March 2020 to either utilize their spectrum holdings or sell it. If the company fails to meet that deadline they will forfeit all of their spectrum holdings, with no monetary return on their sizeable investment.

So, what is DISH going to do with all that Spectrum? If they are to be believed, they want to implement their own 5G network. However, DISH has missed three of the last deadlines set by the FCC that were designed to make sure the company was on track to meet their goals by March 2020. Knowing that, many analysts believe that DISH is actually setting itself up for a merger with a phone carrier that already has a lot of the infrastructure in place that would be necessary to implement a 5G network.

Naturally, DISH denies that they have any interest in a merge. In fact, their CEO Charlie Ergen, stepped down from the role a few months ago to focus his efforts full time on creating a 5G network with their spectrum holdings. Of course, that could just be a PR misdirect, but there is no real way of knowing.

Is DISH telling the truth, or are we going to see a major merger occur in the next few months? That’s the million-dollar question that a lot of industry experts seem to disagree on. Regardless of what people think, that FCC deadline looms ever closer by the day. Either way, something will need to happen with those spectrum holdings soon. This is certainly a story worth keeping a close eye on.

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