Building out NB-IoT is first step toward 5G

Earlier this week Ericsson announced it had won RAN and core business from Dish and SBA noted on an earnings call it was seeing activity from the TV powerhouse as it builds out an NB-IoT network with longer-term ambitions to put its spectrum stash to work for 5G.

Dish CEO Charlie Ergen, in an earnings call this week, field questions about Dish’s wireless plans. He said there would be broad appeal for a standalone 5G network.

Company executives pinned the NB-IoT network cost in the $500 million to $1 billion range, and the 5G network at around $10 billion.

That spend, Ergern said, will “come in 2020, 2021 and 2022. We will certainly be a lot more open about how we’re going to do that as we get farther along in that business plan. We have the capital to do phase 1; we don’t have all the capital we need to do phase 2. But that capital could come in many shapes and forms.”

EVP Tom Cullen said the NB-IoT network build is currently underway, although the bulk of activity will be next year. He said, in addition to the deal with SBA, Dish has master lease agreements with all the major tower companies, regional tower companies and teams working on site acquisition.

Ergen said customers for a 5G network could include car companies, manufacturers and other interest that use robotics, the healthcare sector, wireless VR headset users and cable companies looking to move deeper into the wireless market.

“Instead of building a network primarily for voice, we’re building a network primarily for digitizing the physical world.” He gave the example of using Uber today–press a button, a driver turns a car toward you–and with 5G, when the same thing will happen but the car will be autonomous. Existing networks can’t do that, Ergen said.

“You not only have to have really efficient use of spectrum in terms of how you architect your network, you also have to virtualize your network,” he said. “It’s going to make your network more flexible so you can change your network at a moment’s notice.” He said cable companies like want to “leapfrog what the incumbents do. If I was the CEO of a cable company, I’d want to leapfrog.”




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