DISH selects Mavenir for 5G roll out

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Satellite TV and streaming media firm DISH Network has announced a multi-year agreement with network software provider Mavenir to deliver cloud-native OpenRAN software for its new 5G network.

DISH, which provides entertainment services via satellite-based DISH TV, as well as streaming services under the Sling TV brand, intends to become a US-wide facilities-based provider of wireless services, which involves it rolling out the first standalone 5G broadband network in the US.

“Mavenir will help us lay the foundation for an innovative software-defined network with the flexibility, intelligence and scalability to deliver applications that will redefine the US wireless industry,” said Marc Rouanne, DISH’s Chief Network Officer.

This comes days after DISH’s advertising division – DISH Media – announced the availability of on-demand ads that can be bought programmatically or in real time across both DISH TV and Sling TV platforms.

Despite the upbeat tone and positive announcements, there is rising concern about DISH’s business, which is under pressure as its satellite TV customers move to SVoD services.

On April 13th, the company confirmed it was laying off an unspecified number of workers as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, although unconfirmed rumours suggest this is up to 20 per cent of its workforce. In a memo leaked to Reuters, CEO Erik Carlson told employees that the pandemic had forced the company to take a “closer look at every aspect of our business, at our work volumes, our areas of focus and investments, and the performance of our team members”. The memo suggested that redundancies would be concentrated in the In Home Services division.

Doubts have also been raised, however, about whether DISH can raise sufficient cash to meet its 5G roll out obligations. DISH spent $1.4 billion on Sprint’s Boost Mobile prepaid network, which came with a 9 million-strong customer base. But this is just a fraction of the $10 billion it says it needs to build out a national network by 2023. Even that figure has been questioned, with Craig Moffett, principal analyst at MoffettNathanson, pointing out that Verizon spends $15 billion a year just maintaining its existing network.

And the clock continues to tick. By 2023, DISH’s network has to cover 70 per cent of the US population or it will face a $2 billion fine from the US government and may have to forfeit $12 billion worth of wireless spectrum. To date, there has been no indication whether any leeway will be given in view of the Coronavirus crisis, but the current environment is going to make it even more difficult for the company to raise the capital it needs to reach its goals.


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