Dish Network has completed a $1.4 billion acquisition of Boost Mobile, a former Sprint subsidiary that resells prepaid mobile service.
After years of buying up spectrum but never delivering service, Dish is finally a mobile provider—albeit as a reseller that doesn’t yet operate its own network. Dish was able to buy Boost as part of the merger agreement in which the Department of Justice allowed T-Mobile to buy Sprint. The DOJ required T-Mobile and Sprint to sell Dish the prepaid business as well as spectrum licenses and wholesale access to the combined T-Mobile/Sprint network. The prepaid sale and wholesale access are intended to let Dish operate a wireless business as a network reseller while it builds its own 5G network that could eventually make it the fourth major wireless provider.
“With this purchase, Dish officially enters the retail wireless market, serving more than nine million customers,” Dish said in a press release today. Starting tomorrow, Dish said its Boost subsidiary will offer a “$hrink-It! plan, which starts at $45 for 15GB, reduces customers’ monthly rates by $5 after three on-time payments, and by an additional $5 after six total on-time payments.” Boost will also “offer a $35 10GB plan that includes unlimited talk and text,” Dish said.
Before the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Boost used Sprint’s network to provide wireless service. Under the new setup, “Boost has begun, and will continue, to activate customers with a compatible device onto the new T-Mobile network, where customers will receive a stronger signal, faster speeds and more coverage,” Dish said. T-Mobile said the deal also gives Boost customers access to “roaming in certain areas until Dish’s 5G network is built out.”
Dish said it is “continu[ing] vendor selection” for the 5G network it plans to build, having already struck deals with “Fujitsu for radio units and Altiostar and Mavenir for cloud-native, Open RAN software.” Dish is also a satellite-TV provider with about 9 million video subscribers, and it is the owner of the Sling TV online service.
The DOJ, which took an active role in facilitating the divestitures, applauded the Dish/Boost deal today in an unusual press release titled “Justice Department congratulates T-Mobile and Dish for closing the Boost divestiture.” Although the T-Mobile/Sprint merger reduced the US wireless market from four major carriers to three, DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said the Boost selloff “is a significant milestone in realizing the Department of Justice’s remedy, which is designed to strengthen competition for high-quality 5G networks and benefit American consumers nationwide.”
As we’ve previously written, the government-imposed conditions require Dish to cover 70 percent of the US population with 5G by June 2023. That could leave 100 million Americans without the option of a fourth carrier if Dish doesn’t go far beyond that 70 percent requirement. Dish also got approval from the Federal Communications Commission to build a 4G network in 2012, but it never did so.