Dish Network continues to win deals in the private networking space and having its own spectrum licenses puts it in a favorable position, according to company executives.

Dish started out talking about private 5G, and that’s sort of evolving into a private 5G as a service solution, according to Stephen Bye, EVP and chief commercial officer at Dish. 

“We continue to win more projects and take on more opportunity with the Department of Defense,” he said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.

He couldn’t get into a lot of detail on those projects. However, he said the company is also active in other verticals, including hospitality, industrial manufacturing and utilities.

“We’re seeing growing momentum as we step into ‘23,” Bye said. “We expect that deal flow to continue to grow and we’re excited about the opportunity.”

In order to build these private networks, “it is absolutely vital to have access to licensed spectrum,” he said, noting that they’re running into different players in this space who are offering private wireless via CBRS solutions using GAA or Wi-Fi, and “what we’re hearing more and more from customers is that just doesn’t cut the grade,” he said.

These customers need access to licensed spectrum, and it’s actually very important to have access to more than one spectrum band, including 3.5 GHz using Dish’s Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and low-band spectrum, he said.

“We’re obviously in a very good position with the spectrum portfolio that we have today,” he added.

In the private 5G space, Dish works with JMA, Cisco, Dell, Hughes and others.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said it’s going to be a big part of Dish’s wireless business, which was designed to be an open wholesale network. The advantage over legacy networks is the software- and cloud-based nature of the architecture.

“We think the incumbents are going to get their fair share of the business,” but with a network designed the way Dish’s is designed, they can get 25% of that business, and that’s going to be a very profitable one for Dish, he said.

Ergen said as they move to the 70% population target for the 5G network build, the last 30% costs about as much as the first 70% and it might even be more than that.

He also said that a lot of towers rented by current incumbents are not profitable for them. “We don’t have to make that investment,” because they can roam on MVNO partner networks.

Of course, when Dish rides on their networks, they’re getting “free money” for an investment they’ve already made, he said.

Interestingly, while Dish has had its run-ins with T-Mobile in the past – Ergen calling T-Mobile the “magenta Grinch” comes to mind – today he acknowledged that T-Mobile’s going gangbusters.

“I personally see, when you take a look at the marketplace, T-Mobile is running away with the market. They’re just going 90 miles an hour and they’re running away with things… They have a higher market cap than Verizon and AT&T now, so … I think they were No. 4 when we first started talking with T-Mobile years ago. They’re now No. 1” and continue to gain momentum.

“There’s going to be opportunities for all the players in this market, but there’s going to be good opportunities for us,” Ergen said.

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