Dish Network says it is progressing with its Boost Infinite postpaid service but company executives stopped short of saying when it will launch commercially nationwide. 

Instead, John Swieringa, president and COO of Dish Wireless, told investors on the company’s Q4 earnings call that Dish’s 5G network is currently live in 12 markets covering 30 million POPs offering both 5G data and voice services using voice over new radio (VoNR).

Across all Dish sites, Dish’s 5G network is providing 5G broadband services but Swieringa said that the company is launching new markets with both 5G data and VoNR every week. He also said that the company is still offering service primarily to “early access” customers that signed up online to get it and added that in the first half of the year Dish will start marketing the service more widely.

VoNR remains a “technical challenge,” said Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, adding he expects a six month (or less) lag from the time Dish gets its 5G network transmitting broadband data to when it can optimize it for 5G voice, or VoNR.

Swieringa said that while Boost Infinite is gaining traction as an MVNO using T-Mobile and AT&T’s underlying networks, the company really wants customers to ride on Dish’s network for both voice and data so it can achieve “owner economics” and not pay for capacity on the other operators’ networks.

Swieringa added that Dish is working closely with Apple to get a Band 70 device from Apple in its portfolio. “Apple is important for the postpaid market,” he said. Ergen hinted that if the next Apple iPhone will work on Boost Infinite’s network, it will be a game-changer for the company. However, he said there is no arrangement with Apple yet.

Dish executives touted their preference for operating a postpaid wireless business despite the fact that the company currently operates Boost Mobile’s prepaid business. “A postpaid customer is worth 5x that of a prepaid customer,” Ergen said. 

Dish previously announced that in Q4 Boost Mobile lost 24,000 prepaid subscribers, which is an improvement over Q4 2021 when the company reported a net loss of 245,000 Boost Mobile subscribers. Dish ended the year with 7.98 million wireless customers. The company also reported a Q4 churn rate of 4.57%, which is higher than its Q3 churn rate of 4.28% but lower than Q4 2021 when the company reported a churn rate of 4.95%.

On the network front, Dish previously reported that at year-end 2022 it had 15,000 sites operational. That number has now grown to 17,000 and the company remains on pace to add 1,000 sites per week. Dave Mayo, Dish’s EVP of network development, said that it takes about three to four months from the time they start working on a site until it can go live. The biggest hurdles are getting power and fiber to the tower.

Ergen added that the company is optimistic that it can achieve the FCC mandate of deploying its network to cover 70% of the U.S. population by mid-June. “We are on track for 70% and we don’t expect to be penalized.”

Dish reported Q4 revenue of $4.04 billion compared to $4.45 billion in Q4 2021. The company also reported a net income of $936 million compared to $552 million in the same quarter in 2021. For the full year Dish reported revenue of $16.68 billion, compared to $17.88 billion in 2021. The company also reported a net income of $2.3 billion, down from $2.41 billion in 2021.

Private networks are the bomb

Ergen admitted that while the company is pursuing a retail wireless business through Boost Infinite and Boost Mobile, it believes that private wireless and enterprise hold the biggest opportunity. He said he believes that the industry will see “real revenue” from private networks next year.  

Dish is targeting smart agriculture and leisure and entertainment vertical markets but is also working closely with its partners Cisco, Dell and others that have bigger enterprise sales forces to tap into other vertical markets.

Ergen said that Dish believes postpaid will be much more profitable for the company than prepaid and that the enterprise market will possibly be even more lucrative than postpaid.

But he added that selling to enterprises takes time because they need to see how building a private wireless network will improve their productivity and help them make their products cheaper and faster. “These are big companies and you need to go through a lot of layers to get that investment.”

Nevertheless, he is encouraged by deals such as T-Mobile’s recent agreement to join forces with Amazon Web Services to deliver customizable private networks to enterprises. “The more the merrier when it comes to private networks. We need competition among companies to see that it scales.”

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