It's not googleable (shame on WISPA for poor coverage of their own event) but if you listened carefully during Charlie Ergen's talk at WISPAPALOOZA 2011, it was obvious that Dish Networks was going to be getting into some kind of Broadband Internet Access. Charlie was surprisingly open that Dish was seeing the effect of "cord cutting" and inroads of Netflix, and Charlie invited the attendees to "talk to us about what we could do together".
Flash forward a year or so - December 2012, and Dish gets its hands on some spectrum. So, now that they have some spectrum, they're a now a credible player in Broadband Wireless Internet Access... right? Well, um, no. The pro's snickered, knowing it's HARD to build terrestrial wireless infrastructure on a national scale. Oh, and it's expen$ive! Sure, you can just pull out the money gun and point it at the largest tower companies and fire away... but that gets you the SITES. That's all. Then there's all of the backhaul. And the equipment choice(s). And the Installation. And the Maintenance. And the Network Operations Center. And the Security. And.. And... And...
In short, it's really, REALLY different than the "simple"* bent pipe model of 99.9% of what Dish does. Dish transmits up to the satellites, customers passively receive from the satellites. Scaling from 1 to infinite is pretty possible (assuming you can handle getting and keeping the installers, maintaining minimal installation standards (hint - running satellite coax through a rain gutter is a bad idea - true story from my Father-In-Law's latest Dish installation), and of course the billing issues (always a challenge given the recent cord cutting frenzy causing a lot of churn).
So today's announcement of Dish really wanting to buy Sprint makes total sense. In buying Sprint, Dish buys an existing terrestrial Broadband Wireless (Internet Access) infrastructure. They also buy expertise in managing a terrestrial infrastructure. They even buy a footprint of retail stores where they can co-sell wireless phones and satellite television service. And theoretically, they can blend television via satellite and television via Broadband Internet.
Softbank is good, but Charlie Ergen is meaner, hungrier, and a better dealmaker. I'm betting on Charlie to win in the end.
* Yeah, I know. Not really simple at all. But simpler than trying to build and operate a national footprint terrestrial wireless network.
By Steve Stroh
Personal note - it's good to be back. I've missed all of you.