The biggest obstacle T-Mobile faced when it announced it was going to buy Sprint on April 29, 2018 was the same roadblock that prevented previous attempts at a Sprint-T-Mobile merger from getting off the ground. You could say that math was the problem. The Justice Department feared that Sprint’s disappearance from the mobile landscape would reduce competition in the wireless sector by 25%.
The DOJ feared that the lack of a fourth wireless competitor would cause wireless carriers to raise prices significantly
By cutting competition by such a large amount, regulators feared the merger would leave the industry with just three major wireless carriers in the states, leading to higher prices for consumers. To replace Sprint as the “fourth nationwide facility network competitor,” Dish Network stepped in. This was not entirely surprising, since Dish chairman Charles Ergen had always proclaimed that he wanted to run a wireless business.
Dish must meet DOJ requirements that require its 5G signals to cover 20% of the US population by June 14
By June 14 next year, it must cover 70% of the US or more with wireless service with a download speed of 35 Mbps or faster, to be verified by a disk test. Meanwhile, Dish is building its own stand-alone 5G network that uses end-to-end 5G technology. Non-standalone 5G networks offer services that use 5G in combination with older technologies, including 4G/LTE.
Analysts covering the wireless sector believe that Dish Wireless will still need to operate as a voice services MVNO, even within the 20% of the country covered by Dish’s 5G signal as of June 14. That was confirmed by Dish’s Ergen last month when he said Dish Wireless would first use its own 5G signals ‘for data’. Ergen also noted that Dish’s 5G service “would be less robust at first” than he had hoped.
Dish may still need to rely on its MVNO partners to deliver 5G voice services
Some other carriers continue to rely on VoLTE (voice over LTE), despite using a network with a 5G core. One of those providers is surprisingly the American 5G leader T-Mobile. New Street Research analysts say: “We understand that making standalone 5G voice services (called VoNR or ‘voice over new radio’) work seamlessly across the industry has proved challenging.”
New Street continues by saying, “While VoNR works for Dish in Las Vegas, we are finding it difficult to optimize it in other markets, and in particular to get seamless handovers between VoNR on Dish’s network and VoLTE on the network. from AT&T or T-Mobile when a customer goes outside of Dish’s network coverage and goes to the MVNOs.”
Despite issues with VoNR (much like T-Mobile is), New Street says Dish will meet regulatory requirements for 20% of the US with its 5G service within a week from this Tuesday. “Based on our reading of Dish’s commitment to offer ‘5G broadband service’, it seems unlikely to us that Dish would be deemed not to have achieved 20% coverage if they rely on the MVNOs for voice services in that range from the outset . coverage, while using only their own network for broadband services.”