Dish Approved to Conduct Nationwide 5G Testing Using Low-Band Spectrum

Dish Considers Purchasing Spectrum from T-Mobile for 5G Coverage

Dish has the option to purchase low-band 800MHz spectrum from T-Mobile for $3.59 billion as directed by the FCC to divest itself of the 13.5MHz nationwide airwaves as part of T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint. Dish already uses spectrum in the 817-824 MHz/862-869 MHz range.

Low Band Spectrum in 5G

Low-band spectrum, including the 600MHz used by T-Mobile for nationwide 5G coverage and the 850MHz used by AT&T and Verizon for low-band 5G coverage through Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), is ideal for carrying 5G across the country due to its ability to travel longer distances than mid-band and mmWave signals. However, low-band signals do not provide faster download speeds than mid-band and mmWave signals.

Possible Purchase of Spectrum and 5G Coverage Mandate

The FCC granted Dish permission to test airwaves in Yuma, Arizona, and has until April 1st to decide whether to purchase spectrum from T-Mobile. Dish must cover at least 70% of the U.S. with 5G service by June 14th and reach 75% of each of the 416 Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) in the states by the middle of 2025. The purchase of additional spectrum could help Dish reach this mandated target.

Dish Aiming to be the “Fourth Nationwide Facilities-Based Network Competitor”

Dish must replace Sprint to become the “fourth nationwide facilities-based network competitor” to prevent the U.S. from having only three major wireless providers, which the FCC and Justice Department feared would result in higher prices in the industry. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has reported “positive developments in terms of a return on that spectrum,” and CFO Paul Orban says the probability of purchasing the spectrum has increased.

Dish’s 5G Launches

Dish launched 5G in a limited number of cities last June to avoid a $16 million fine imposed by the FCC, and must continue to expand coverage to meet the mandated targets.