Instead, Dish has agreed to pay AT&T $5 billion over a 10-year period to secure the telecom giant as its wireless network provider. After four decades focused on satellite TV services, Dish is pivoting to telecom after buying up spectrum and starting to build out a network. It acquired assets including Boost Mobile as a result of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger.
DirecTV, which AT&T bought in 2015 and recently spun off into a separate entity backed by private equity firm TPG, has long competed with Dish. Charlie Ergen, the outspoken chairman of Dish, has repeatedly said he expects the two pay-TV entities to merge one day, though regulators have previously taken a dim view of such a combination. The pay-TV landscape of today, it could be argued, is significantly different now that internet-delivered packages are widely available and satellite is in secular decline.
Dish is looking to expand its 5G network to 70% of the U.S. population by 2023. As with its TV footprint, rural markets are central to its strategy.
“Teaming with AT&T on this long-term partnership will allow us to better compete in the retail wireless market and quickly respond to changes in our customers’ evolving connectivity needs as we build our own first-of-its kind 5G network,” said John Swieringa, Dish COO and Group President of Retail Wireless.
“Teaming with Dish on this agreement is not only a testament to the strength of our network, but it further validates the investments we’ve made in our fiber and wireless infrastructure,” said Thaddeus Arroyo, CEO, AT&T Consumer. “We welcome Dish wireless and its customers to the nation’s largest and best wireless network for all of their streaming, data and roaming needs.”