DENVER — Dish Networks is making progress with the deployment of 5G Voice over New Radio (VoNR), the voice service that runs on its 5G standalone (SA) network. The company expects to deploy the service in more of its network in the coming weeks. Dish, which launched its SA network in June and now provides coverage to about 30% of the U.S. population, offers VoNR in a couple of markets but primarily relies on its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) arrangements with T-Mobile and AT&T to provide voice services to customers. T-Mobile is also cautiously deploying VoNR across its network but unlike Dish it has the benefit of being able to fall back on VoLTE.

What makes VoNR challenging is it requires optimization between the phone, the radio access network and the core network and won’t tolerate any glitches. 

While speaking at the Incompas 2022 event here this week, Tom Cullen, Dish Network’s EVP of corporate development, admitted that VoNR is a challenge for Dish but said that the company has deployed some new software releases and is “ironing out” some of the problems. He added that Dish expects to deploy VoNR more broadly in its network soon.  

Cullen also said that the company’s seven-year MVNO agreement with T-Mobile and its 10-year MVNO agreement with AT&T give Dish the “luxury” to provision customers on its core network and have in-market roaming on T-Mobile and AT&T. “That gives us flexibility as we build out our network,” he said.

Cullen referred to Dish’s current 5G service, which the company calls Project Genesis, as a “nationwide beta test” of its network and said that currently any customer can go to the Project Genesis web site, plug in their address and see if they qualify for coverage at that address. Cullen said that this process is helping Dish improve its customer service and operational processes as it prepares for a broader launch in the first quarter of 2023.

But don’t expect to see a bunch of Dish Wireless or Boost Wireless stores in every market. Cullen said that Dish will rely on digital activations, which will be made easier with embedded subscriber identity module (eSIM) technology. Dish has always hinted that it would be supportive of eSIMs, which are embedded in mobile devices and can be updated with software instead of having to be physically removed and replaced. The Apple iPhone 14 supports eSIM technology.

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