Dish Network has until March 2020 to build out the first phase of its wireless network or risk losing spectrum assets the company paid billions for. And just in case any Dish employees happen to forget, every time they log on to their computer each sees a countdown reminder of the days remaining until the launch deadline, company Chairman and Co-founder Charlie Ergen told Bloomberg.
“This is Management 101― it’s how you get disparate people to focus in one direction,” Ergen told the news outlet.
Ergen, who stepped down as the satellite TV provider’s CEO last year to focus on the company’s wireless efforts, has the same countdown (which features an image of Mount Everest) on his phone.
Dish has spent nearly $20 billion scooping up unused spectrum, accumulating $15 billion in debt on its balance sheet, according to CNBC.
Earlier this year Ergen said the company would initially build out a NB-IoT network by the 2020 deadline, costing between $500 and $1 billion over a two year span. That would then be upgradable to a type of 5G network, Ergen estimated would cost about $10 billion. However Ergen himself has acknowledged that Dish has no experience building a network and admitted the company lacks the cash flow of major wireless carriers.
Under its FCC commitment, Dish’s network must cover 70 percent of the population by the 2020 deadline in areas that are part of its AWS-4 spectrum holdings.
Ergen had reportedly considered other options than Dish building out a network on its own, but as pointed out by Bloomberg, the company’s likelihood of securing a wireless buildout partner has lessened now that Sprint and T-Mobile are in the midst of seeking approval for their proposed merger.
Ergen likened Dish’s network to the Manhattan Project.
“It took them four years to design and build the atomic bomb. And that’s about how long it’s going to take us to design and build the greatest 5G network,” he said in the interview, noting today represents the first year.