Dish strikes deals for 4K more towers in 5G network build

Dish Network has inked deals with seven companies for access to 4,000 macro towers across the country as it works to build out a nationwide 5G network.

The companies include Harmoni Towers (formerly Uniti Towers), Mobilitie, Parallel Infrastructure, Phoenix Towers International, Tillman Infrastructure, Tower Ventures and Vogue Towers.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Distribution of the 4,000 sites isn’t an even split among the infrastructure partners, according to a Dish spokesperson, but the company isn’t announcing specifics. Fierce Wireless reached out to the tower companies and will update with any additional information.

The deals cover macro sites and are for existing locations versus new construction, according to the Dish spokesperson. Dish said the vendors will also provide a variety of services to help speed the time it takes to deploy 5G radios on sites.  

The seven agreements follow two earlier tower deals. The first was a larger long-term lease with public tower company Crown Castle for up to 20,000 macro sites, which included fiber services and represented Dish’s first major infrastructure deal. Dish signed its second earlier this month with private tower company Vertical Bridge. Crown Castle peers American Tower and SBA Communications haven’t reached deals with Dish yet.

RELATED: Crown Castle CFO: Fiber business a differentiator for Dish tower deal

Dish has said it’s on target to hit a benchmark of at least 15,000 sites to reach minimum coverage requirements. Under FCC commitments, it needs to use certain spectrum licenses to build out a wireless network that covers 70% of the U.S. population by June 2023. Dish is taking a cloud-native approach using open RAN architecture and has lined up a roster of equipment, services, and infrastructure partners.  

Dish already has a retail presence through the prepaid Boost Mobile brand acquired from Sprint and a seven-year MVNO deal with T-Mobile related to the carriers’ 2020 merger. The first major 5G market for Dish’s standalone network is expected the second half of this year, though some remain skeptical of the projected $10 billion price tag.

“Securing strong tower partners is a key component of any network expansion, and is tremendously important for DISH’s rapid roll-out of a new nationwide 5G network," said Dave Mayo, Dish EVP of Network Development, in a statement. “Each of these new tower partners will play an important role in bringing or network to life, connecting next-generation wireless service to American consumers and enterprises.”

Harmoni Towers has connections to Uniti Group, which is one of Dish’s named fiber providers. The September name change from Uniti Towers to Harmoni came after Melody Investment Advisors acquired a 90% stake of the company, including more than 500 towers from Uniti.

At the time Harmoni said it was marketing more than 1,000 site locations across the U.S. Soon after, Melody also closed a deal for about 1,150 wireless towers from CTI Towers.  

“We believe our growing portfolio of newly constructed towers provides a unique opportunity to quickly and efficiently deliver the wireless infrastructure solutions DISH requires,” said Lawrence Gleason, president of Harmoni Towers, in a statement.

RELATED: Dish strikes tower deal with Vertical Bridge

Parallel also rebranded last fall, reviving its original name after Apollo Global Management announced that certain funds managed by affiliates acquired the cell tower portfolio of Lendlease. As of October 2020, Apollo said Parallel’s build-to-suit tower portfolio had nearly 500 macro cell towers across the U.S., and several hundred under contract or in late-stage development. 

Mobilitie’s infrastructure assets include towers, indoor and outdoor neutral host DAS networks, and small cells. It’s deployed wireless systems in venues across a variety of industries such as sports and entertainment, hospitality, education, transportation and others.

“Mobilitie is proud to be partnering with DISH to support the aggressive buildout of its new national 5G network," said Christos Karmis, president & CEO of Mobilitie, in a statement. "With our national portfolio of infrastructure assets, Mobilitie's top tier team, and our deep experience working with major US cities, we are looking forward to a long-term relationship supporting Dish's state-of-the-art network and their ground-breaking progress as the industry's newest national wireless carrier." 

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Phoenix Towers International (PTI) is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida and owns and operates more than 12,500 towers across 16 countries in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. Investors include funds managed by Blackstone and John Hancock. In March 2020 PTI acquired Tower Ventures Holdings, including 197 wireless towers located along the Atlantic seaboard, South, and Midwestern regions in the U.S.

Memphis-based Tower Ventures, meanwhile, owned and managed 360 towers in the U.S.

Vogue Towers has built and acquired more than 5,000 towers throughout the U.S. since 1996, with around 15,000 carrier leases, according to the company’s website.

Tillman Infrastructure has more than 1,000 sites across the U.S. with 1,250 more in development. Towers are located within 35 states, mainly in the Midwest, South and Southeast.  

In the second half of 2020 Tillman signed strategic partnerships with industry groups Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) and Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) to help members, many of which are smaller, regional, or rural carriers, scale and more easily deploy networks.