Dish eyes future profits from private wireless

Dish’s investor day this week didn’t yield any big news, but the analysts at New Street Research noted Dish’s revenue prospects in the 5G private wireless realm.

Private wireless was barely a thing in the U.S. in 2018 when Dish began talking about becoming a fourth infrastructure-based wireless provider. But since then, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned off CBRS spectrum; Dish bought $912.9 million of the spectrum; and private wireless has become one of the hottest topics in the wireless industry.

Yesterday, New Street Research analyst Philip Burnett wrote that Dish conservatively expects the private 5G network market to produce $30 billion in revenue by 2025, with Dish capturing at least 20% of the market over time.

New Street said Dish’s revenue and profit models from enterprise 5G “resembles the model for tower companies (such as AMT and SBAC), which trade at well over 20x EV/EBITDA even after the recent selloff. That would suggest the enterprise opportunity is worth at least $80 billion for Dish.”

Three revenue models for private wireless

Stephen Bye, Dish Wireless’ Chief Commercial Officer, outlined three ways that the company can make money from private wireless. It can lease its CBRS spectrum to enterprises so they can set up their own private wireless network. It can offer private 5G networks as-a-service. And it can use network slicing within its private networks as-a-service.

Dish can follow the lead of several other companies that are offering private 5G networks as-a-service. The most visible of these is AWS, which announced its AWS Private 5G in November 2021. The big wireless carriers are all doing something similar, and so are other cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure.

Dish is also considering offering network slicing as part of its 5G networks as-a-service model. Network slicing would extend the local services to wide areas via end-to-end slices.

Dish reminded everyone yesterday that it is involved with building an integrated satellite and 5G network with the Department of Defense (DoD) on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Hughes Network Systems previously announced it secured an $18 million contract from the DoD to deploy a standalone 5G network at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Hughes will be the primary contractor connecting the base with a secure 5G network to support operations, maintenance and flight traffic management.

Dish Wireless is the sole provider of low-band, mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum to Hughes’ 5G network. The contract is expected to last three years with Dish offering Hughes engineering services, support and access to its spectrum portfolio.

Bye also yesterday mentioned Dish’s work with Duke University. Dish has contributed some CBRS spectrum and is teaming with Cisco, Internet2 and Duke University on the launch of a neutral host network pilot for higher education institutions.

The neutral host network will integrate Duke University’s private network, powered by Cisco’s Private 5G as-a-service platform and Internet2’s upgraded fifth-generation national research and education network, with Dish Wireless’ 5G network.

The trial will launch this summer.