Dish says its IoT network is real and will be a first for U.S.

DALLAS—While Dish Network’s intentions in the wireless industry have been the subject of scrutiny and skepticism for years, the company’s vice president of technology development reiterated the company’s intentions to truly build an IoT network.

“It’s very exciting” to be building a greenfield IoT network—the first one in the U.S.—from scratch, said Mariam Sorond, vice president of Technology Development at Dish Network at the FierceWireless Next Gen Wireless Networks Summit 2018. 

The big question is whether Dish is serious about building out this network.

“Absolutely,” Sorond answered.

Dish has started phase 1 of its journey. It isn’t naming vendors yet but says it’s been building up a cadre of infrastructure, chipset and device vendors to help in its efforts.

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Dish has spent roughly $20 billion over the past decade amassing a significant spectrum portfolio stretching from 600 MHz to AWS-4. Today, the company owns roughly 95 MHz of low- and midband spectrum, according to Wall Street analysts at Cowen, which valued those holdings at about $30.2 billion.

Dish has said it will spend between $500 million and $1 billion through 2020 building out the first phase of its wireless network. The company plans to initially deploy an NB-IoT network and cover 70% of the population by March 2020. The phase 2 build-out will require a new process of RFPs.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has set modest expectations for its initial IoT efforts, saying it’s not expected to make big profits on day one. But he explained that Dish’s initial NB-IoT wireless network will set the stage for the company to eventually launch some kind of 5G service.

T-Mobile has already build out a NB-IoT network, offering service nationwide. That network sits in its Cat 1 IoT network—launched last year—that provides much faster network speeds but also more expensive service plans and modules.