While Dish Network appears to be on course to cover 20% of the U.S. population with 5G by the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) June 14 deadline, the company could have another big hurdle to deal with – voice communications. Analysts believe that developing a 5G voice service has been a bottleneck for the entire industry.
VoNR is a work in progress, meaning Dish may have to rely on 5G for data only
“Our understanding is that making standalone 5G voice services (called VoNR or ‘voice over new radio’) work seamlessly has proven challenging for the industry at large,” the analysts at New Street Research said.
“While VoNR is working for Dish in Las Vegas, our sense is that it has been tough to optimize it in other markets, and specifically, to accomplish seamless handoffs between VoNR on Dish’s network and VoLTE on either AT&T or T-Mobile’s network when a customer moves beyond Dish’s network coverage and onto the MVNOs.”
This update from the research group comes after the FCC opened a docket to gauge Dish’s compliance with the conditions of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. Speaking to Fierce Wireless, a Dish spokesperson confirmed that VoNR is part of its recent network deployment in Las Vegas, NV. However, the representative didn’t comment on whether VoNR has been rolled out in other regions of the U.S.
Analysts at New Street point out that top carriers like T-Mobile continue to use VoLTE, which leverages LTE for voice. This is despite T-Mobile aggressively expanding its 5G portfolio across the U.S. This, the researchers believe, highlights the troubles carriers face in implementing 5G-based voice communications.
Keeping this in mind, the analysts predict that Dish may stick to MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) for voice services. This would even apply to areas that come under the aforementioned 20% coverage bracket. “Still, if complaints about Dish meeting its commitments arise, we suspect they will be about this issue,” the researchers noted.
What does the future look like?
Industry analyst and founder of Recon Analytics, Roger Entner said that voice over 5G “doesn’t work” at the moment. There are other concerns for Dish, too, given that it is launching a network based on the cloud. Moreover, it relies on the open Radio Access Network (RAN) principles. This is still relatively new for the industry, particularly on a scale like this.