Fritzsche’s Forum

Dish, WCI and the Private Network Opportunity

January 24, 2022


In my last post, I called out Private Networks being at the ‘base of the hockey stick’.  Wondering if Charlie Ergen agrees?  The recent announcement between DISH and WCI Technologies could offer a very important clue as to where Ergen’s spectrum bets are being placed. For those who did not see the announcement (WCI Technologies Partners with DISH to Market 5G for Enterprises – prnewswire.com), key line is as follows: “WCI will sell, market and deliver systems integration services to enterprise customers while DISH will provide access to its portfolio of licensed spectrum, RF design capabilities and 5G deployment expertise…..The companies initially will focus their combined efforts on private wireless solutions supported by DISH’s portfolio of licensed spectrum.” 

Ergen clearly has doubled down on his spectrum bets of late, but there has been a continued question as to if DISH is too far behind to really compete with the likes of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile from a consumer standpoint.   An argument may also be made there is no real reason to do so given the deep penetration of wireless for consumers today.   So what to do?  In thinking about this, I could not help but think of a paperweight my dad gave my son when he didn’t get into his first college choice.  The message on it  said this: “A pivot is a change of strategy without a change in vision”.   

As we still slug through this college “fun”, I more than appreciate the art of the pivot.  Charlie Ergen may, too. If we all agree private networks will see dynamic growth, it may be the carriers that embrace that reality early that have front runner status.   Clearly AT&T and Verizon have deep relationships with many of the enterprises in the silos that the WCI / DISH partnership will be courting (oil / gas, healthcare, etc.).

With WCI as an integrator, DISH is aligning several dance partners for its private network push.  The biggest one clearly is AWS.  Recall, at its re:Invent conference last fall  AWS announced the availability of a private 5G service for enterprises.   While most of this initiative will run on CBRS (which DISH also has in its portfolio), AWS Private 5G will also support other spectrum options beyond CBRS, including licensed spectrum (which DISH will be getting much more of soon).

But when is DISH going to actually discuss its wireless ambitions?  All eyes on February 24th and the NATE UNITE show in Vegas.  I get the lucky draw to interview both Charlie Ergen and FCC Commissioner Carr.  We have received some questions if he use that venue to perhaps push back his launch.  While we recognize the DISH / 5G goal post has continued to be moved, (see Dish Missed Every 5G Commitment It Made in 2021 – SDxCentral), to use this conference to push it back does not stand to reason.  In fact, we believe quite the opposite.  With a new swath of spectrum coming his way, tower contracts in place with ‘tower big boys’ and a stage which will have over 1,000 tower builders and operators in the audience, he may finally lay out a more tangible plan for what he is actually going to do.  Putting on my old analyst hat, I think private networks – and the role DISH can play in jump starting this silo’s robust growth – will most definitely be a major talking point that day!

Viva Las Vegas!!

Jennifer  is Managing Director at Greenhill & Company.  She focuses on the North American Communications Services & Infrastructure spaces.   Prior to this role, Jennifer was as Managing Director and Senior Equity Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities for 25 years where she focused on the Telecommunication Services, Cable, Data Center and Tower sectors.  During her tenure at Wells Fargo, Jennifer received numerous awards including top rankings from Institutional Investor in the Communications Infrastructure space for each of the last four years (2017 – 2020).

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