Ergen: “We are now a start-up”

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Charlie Ergen, one of the pioneers of the satellite industry and founder of the EchoStar and DISH businesses, told delegates to the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Expo in Charlotte North Carolina, that he was now treating his company as a “start-up” and was working towards it being a major player in Internet of Everything connectivity.

He told the meeting that while US suppliers managed to handle connectivity for 300 million people on their phones, the future lay in connecting 300 billion things to sensors, machines and microprocessors. He also said that this could mean a $10 billion investment.

Ergen has also spent billions over the past 5 years acquiring terrestrial wireless spectrum. He said that DISH was not carrying obligations or legacy in 2G, 3G or 4G networks, and was focusing on 5G with “a clean sheet of paper”

Talking to former FCC chairman Robert McDowell, he admitted that his plan would not be easy, and that the scheme represented a paradigm shift for Dish. Moreover, some of the spectrum in its portfolio cannot be accessed until 2020.

Market analyst Craig Moffett (of Moffettnathanson) in a flash note to investors, said: “Perhaps the biggest and most important takeaway is that Ergen sounds genuinely committed to a build-not-sell plan for his spectrum.  The notion that Dish actually plans to build a network is underscored by Ergen’s disclosure – we believe for the first time – that Dish has begun to enter into real, and long-term, tower lease commitments.”

Moffett added: “The second important takeaway is that Ergen has finally articulated a clearer two-phase network plan… with a much (much) higher price tag than broadly anticipated for Phase II.  Phase I of the plan, as Dish Network has now discussed for some time, is to build a narrowband IoT network, using 4G equipment.  The company has repeatedly suggested that this can be done for “less than $1B,” and it is this number on which most investors (and sell-siders) have focused.  But for the first time, Ergen conceded that this would be followed by a Phase II 5G deployment at a cost of ‘at least $10 billion’.”


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