Dish Networks Chairman Charlie Ergen on Friday maintained a positive outlook about the company’s planned narrowband IoT and 5G networks and asserted a new wireless entrant is needed for the U.S. to lead in 5G.
Speaking on Dish’s first-quarter earnings call last week, CEO Erik Carlson said the company is on track to complete the phase 1 NB-IoT buildout by the FCC’s March 2020 deadline, according to a transcript from SeekingAlpha. He said the Dish team continues to install towers across the country.
On the call, Ergen noted that a public letter sent from the FCC to Dish last July questioning progress on the network build, had raised “unnecessary” skepticism in the market around the company’s ability to deliver on wireless efforts.
Ergen said making the letter public, “was an unusual move” on the FCC’s part, but indicated his past experiences with the FCC gives him confidence that the agency will be pleased with Dish’s planned networks.
He also pointed to AT&T’s recent announcement that the operator’s NB-IoT network went live nationwide, and noted AT&T had perfected some if its licenses with the FCC.
“[The] FCC generally goes by precedent and we have what’s called flexible use license,” Ergen said speaking about the spectrum licenses Dish must put into use or risk losing. “That license is eerily similar to what AT&T just did when they perfected — with their flexible use license —they perfected spectrum with an IoT network.”
Ergen also said that the FCC wants the U.S. to lead in 5G, something he doesn’t think is possible “without somebody entering the marketplace with a new build.”
“We want to beat China or beat the other parts in 5G,” Ergen said. “I don’t believe this country can do it without people like companies like Dish.”
Ergen noted that Dish is in a position “to build a virtualized network from the ground floor up,” an architecture that can fully utilize 5G capabilities like network slicing.
This is something that may take legacy providers “a long period of time to do,” Ergen said, though major carriers including AT&T and Verizon have been working to virtualize their respective networks.
“[Virtualization] is difficult to do when you’ve got 100 million customers,” Ergen said.