We’ve known for a while that Dish has been looking to get into the wireless business. Back when T-Mobile was seemingly on its deathbed, Dish and everyone else was looking to buy up the scraps. They were even looking to work with Sprint to make a wireless network. Let’s start at the beginning, which is in 2011 with T-Mobile (ironic because it ends in the present with T-Mobile).
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Back in December of 2011, when AT&T was aggressively looking to buy T-Mobile. Which we all know fell through, Dish was hoping it would fall through, and they wanted to swoop in and make a deal with T-Mobile. Well that obviously didn’t happen, seeing as Deutsche Telekom is still the majority owner of the magenta carrier.
In the Spring of 2012, Dish wanted to build it’s own LTE network. They had been proposing to the FCC to allow them to build this network, this was all while AT&T and T-Mobile were trying to merge, and the FCC decided that wasn’t going to happen. The initial rollout of their LTE network was slated for 2016, but that didn’t happen.
November 2012, Google and Dish were rumored to be in talks to create a wireless network. Dish had been buying off spectrum in auctions – in fact they still are today – and were hoping to work with Google in getting their own wireless network. The word was the two were in preliminary talks, but it appears those talks didn’t go far, at all. Considering Google now has their wireless network, Project Fi, which uses T-Mobile and Sprint’s network. There’s a huge possibility that these two really were in talks.
December 2012, Sprint and Dish begin talking. T-Mobile’s not available, so let’s talk to Sprint. That’s the carrier that has the most MVNO’s running on their network – some say that’s the biggest reason why their network is pretty slow in a lot of areas. As of today, Dish still doesn’t have a wireless network, so obviously that didn’t happen.
December 2012, remember how in the spring of 2012 Dish was proposing to the FCC to let them build their own LTE network? Well they finally got approval on December 12, 2012. They were so excited, that they never really did anything. That’s right, they never built out that LTE network they wanted approval for from the FCC so bad.
January 2013, back in October of 2012 SoftBank and Sprint announced that the Japanese carrier would be buying 70% of Sprint. That deal would be completed in July of 2013. During that time, Sprint was working on buying out the remaining pieces of Clearwire. Which was just a huge mess between those two. Dish sought to make it a bigger mess by getting involved. Of course, Sprint now owns 100% of Clearwire, so that was another failed chance for Dish.
Spring 2013, Dish was hoping that the FCC wouldn’t approve SoftBank’s bid for Sprint – which we all know in the end, they did approve it. So that left Dish still with a bunch of spectrum and nothing to do with it.
January 2014, Lightsquared attempted to build their own network, even though their spectrum might interfere with the Military’s reserved bandwidth. Of course, Dish had to jump in and try and buy Lightsquared as well. Obviously, that too fell through.
January 2015, Dish launched Sling TV. Not really mobile related on the surface, but it is streaming TV that works on your tablet or smartphone. Which works on a wireless network. You see where I’m going right? That leads us to think that Dish really does want their own network. Not to mention they won some more spectrum in the spectrum auction earlier this year.
June 2015, Dish and T-Mobile talks surface again. It seems that every few months, T-Mobile is in talks with someone about a merger. Deutsche Telekom has been trying to get out of the US for a while, until the past year or so. In fact, after Q1, T-Mobile made the most profit for them out of all the companies they own. And now Dish wants a piece of that. The rumor is that Ergen would be the chairman with Legere as the CEO of the new T-Mobile. Similar to the rumors around the Sprint/T-Mobile deal.
So as you can see, Dish has been trying for a long time to get into the wireless business. They’ve continued to pad their spectrum portfolio as well. With the spectrum that T-Mobile and Dish have, combined it would make for a great competitor to the big two, AT&T and Verizon. But we also know that Charlie Ergen doesn’t “play well with others”, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens here.