Dish loses 121K wireless subs in Q3

Dish Network reported a loss of about 121,000 retail wireless net subscribers in the third quarter of 2021 compared with loss of 212,000 in the year-ago quarter.

The company closed the quarter with 8.77 million retail wireless subscribers.

The majority of Dish’s wireless subscribers are in the Boost Mobile prepaid business, which it acquired from T-Mobile in 2020 as part of the government’s approval of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger.

As such, it’s now operated with Boost for about five quarters since the deal closed in July 2020. When Dish acquired Boost, it had about 9 million subscribers.

“There are losses, but it’s less,” said William Ho, principal at 556 Ventures, noting that Dish’s wireless gross adds are still trending upward, which is a good sign. “You kind of offset churn by increasing gross adds,” which typically require a lot of promotional activity and expenditures.

Dish’s major competitors for Boost are AT&T’s Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile’s Metro prepaid brands. Churn is one gauge to see how well each individual prepaid brand is doing and keeping its customers, he said.

Dish reported a wireless churn rate of 4.61%. T-Mobile's prepaid churn was 2.9% for the third quarter. AT&T said prepaid phone churn was less than 3%, with Cricket churn even lower. 

The pay-TV company’s wireless subscriber results every quarter have resulted in a loss, and Ho expects more of the same in the fourth quarter 2021, which is now underway.

“It remains to be seen for fourth quarter, for me,” he said, noting some of the more aggressive prepaid promotions that T-Mobile recently kicked off, including at Walmart.

As part of the deal tied to T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, Dish is building out a facilities-based wireless network. Its 5G network, virtualized and based on open radio access network (RAN) technology, is under way in more than 40 markets across the country.  

RELATED: Dish pushes back launch of 5G beta service in Las Vegas to Q4

Dish holds its quarterly conference call this afternoon Eastern time, when management is expected to share more details about its 5G buildout and the status of the beta launch in Las Vegas.