DISH, AT&T Sign Strategic Network Services Agreement

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DISH, has signed a transformative, long-term strategic Network Services Agreement (NSA) with AT&T, making AT&T the primary network services partner for DISH MVNO customers.

Through this agreement, DISH will provide current and future customers of its retail wireless brands, including Boost Mobile, Ting Mobile and Republic Wireless, access to best-in-class coverage and connectivity on AT&T’s wireless network, in addition to the new DISH 5G network.

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The agreement accelerates DISH’s expansion of retail wireless distribution to rural markets where DISH provides satellite TV services. AT&T is also providing transport and roaming services as part of the agreement, to support DISH’s 5G network.

DISH is committed to providing competition in the wireless market as the nation’s fourth facilities-based carrier. The company will continue to build out the nation’s first cloud-native, OpenRAN-based 5G network reaching over 70% of the population by 2023.

“Teaming with AT&T on this long-term partnership will allow us to better compete in the retail wireless market and quickly respond to changes in our customers’ evolving connectivity needs as we build our own first-of-its kind 5G network,” said John Swieringa, DISH COO and Group President of Retail Wireless. “The agreement provides enhanced coverage and service for our Boost, Ting and Republic customers, giving them access to the best connectivity on the market today via voice, messaging, data and nationwide roaming on AT&T’s vast network, as well as DISH‘s 5G network.”

AT&T has been recognized as the Nation’s Best Wireless Network two years in a row, according to America’s biggest test. Fast, reliable and secure, AT&T 5G is available to 250 million people across the country over sub-6 spectrum and millimeter wave spectrum (AT&T 5G+), which is currently available in parts of 38 cities and at more than 20 venues, including high-traffic places like stadiums, arenas, airports and campuses. AT&T plans to cover 200 million people across the country with C-band (mid-band) 5G by the end of 2023.

For many years, AT&T has been a leader in connectivity. Between 2016 and the end of the first quarter 2021, AT&T has invested more than $140 billion into its wireless and wireline networks, including capital investments and acquisitions of wireless spectrum and operations, to support market demand for communications.

The agreement allows AT&T the opportunity to use a portion of DISH’s spectrum in various markets to help support DISH customers on AT&T’s network.

“Teaming with DISH on this agreement is not only a testament to the strength of our network, but it further validates the investments we’ve made in our fiber and wireless infrastructure,” said Thaddeus Arroyo, CEO, AT&T Consumer. “We welcome DISH wireless and its customers to the nation’s largest and best wireless network for all of their streaming, data and roaming needs.”

Tammy Parker, Senior Analyst at GlobalData, commented, “This deal is highly beneficial to AT&T as the company not only gains at least $5bn in revenue streams over the term of this ten-year agreement from new MVNO subscribers, it will also have access to DISH’s spectrum holdings to support DISH customers on the AT&T network. The NSA is not exclusive for either party, so both can go out and find new dance partners; however, given the depth and breadth of this agreement, that would appear both unlikely and unnecessary.

“A fascinating part of this new arrangement is that it provides a glimpse into AT&T’s concerns regarding the possibility that DISH could sell out to another entity, perhaps even Amazon or Google. Rumors have abounded, even before DISH agreed to build its 5G network on Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud platform, about possible negotiations between Amazon and DISH regarding the former’s potential use of DISH’s forthcoming 5G network to offer new services. Though there is nothing new to report there, this NSA stipulates that AT&T will be allowed to terminate the NSA in the event of a qualifying change of control of DISH. This could include a rival wireless provider, US cable company or ‘certain large technology companies’ taking over 50% more of the voting power or economic value of DISH. AT&T would still have to support DISH’s MVNO customers for up to two years after such a termination.

“T-Mobile, and its Sprint network, is currently the primary MVNO partner for Boost and Republic. Ting operates on every nationwide network except AT&T. However, although DISH’s involvement saved T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, the relationship between DISH and T-Mobile appears to have been fraught from the start. T-Mobile’s plans to shutter its 3G network by January 2022, leaving many of DISH’s customers without network service, has created an especially contentious standoff between the two companies, which likely helped pave the way for DISH’s new agreement with AT&T,” she explained.