Dish’s 5G voice coverage passes 200m people but company’s future remains uncertain


The growth of Dish’s 5G coverage masks the company’s ongoing struggles, including customer acquisition, leadership stability, and $26 billion in debt

This week, Dish Network has confirmed that 5G voice services are now available to over 200 million American’s nationwide, with the company hailing the achievement as another step towards becoming the bona fide fourth national mobile operator.

Dish has so far spent around $6 billion on expanding its 5G network across the US since 2019, seeking to catch up with the enormous scale of the country’s dominant mobile trio: AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

“At DISH, we firmly believe in the transformative power of communication, and as the 4th nationwide wireless network, we are bringing competition to the wireless industry and more choice to U.S. consumers,” said John Swieringa, president of Technology and COO, EchoStar. “We are proud to now offer 5G voice to over 200 million Americans nationwide, as we continue to expand, optimize, meet milestones and advance the Boost Wireless Network buildout in alignment with our network development plan.”

It should be noted, however, that of more than 200 million potential customers, Dish is currently serving only 7.5 million. In fact, this number is down around 1.5 million from the 9 million customers the business inherited from its purchase of Sprint’s wireless business Boost Mobile back in 2020 as part of the Sprint–T-Mobile merger.

In fact, this news of network expansion actually comes at quite a troubling time for the company, which is facing major challenges not only with customer acquisition and retention, but with debt financing and even leadership.

Dish’s wireless retail chief, Michael Kelly, notably resigned at short notice earlier this week, having been in the role less than a year. He is the latest in a number of executives to jump ship, including Stephen Bye (chief commercial officer), Dave Mayo (chief technology officer), and Jonathan Sipling (chief marketing officer), all of whom left since the start of 2023.

With no clear path to profitable growth for Dish, the company owner Charlie Ergen made the move to recombine Dish with its parent company EchoStar at the start of this year, with Ergen suggesting the move would “generate significant cost and revenue synergies”. Onlookers, however, felt that the merger was more likely related to mitigating the impact of looming maturities on Dish’s $26 billion debt pile.

In conclusion, while Dish’s 5G network continues to grow steadily, its ambitions of becoming a fully-fledged fourth national mobile operator are beginning to look overly optimistic.

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