Dish Network has a new network operator partner for its MVNO brands: AT&T. The companies have signed a network services agreement (NSA) that will see Dish pay AT&T at least $5 billion over the course of the next ten years to use its 4G and 5G networks as Dish brings its own 5G network online.
The deal takes effect immediately and comes at a time when relations between Dish and T-Mobile — currently a major network partner — are particularly strained. It’s a nonexclusive agreement, and Dish says that some of its customers will likely continue to connect to T-Mobile’s network. The arrangement also gives AT&T the right to request access to use some of Dish’s wireless spectrum.
Dish owns Boost Mobile, Ting, and Republic Wireless MVNOs, which operate on other carrier networks. Dish acquired Boost Mobile in the T-Mobile / Sprint acquisition deal, as part of a scheme to set the company up as the fourth wireless carrier in the US. Dish’s Ting and Republic Wireless acquisitions also gave the company access to backend infrastructure and subscribers in anticipation of its launch as a full-fledged mobile carrier.
Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly. There’s the impending T-Mobile CDMA shutdown — a network many Boost customers still rely on — that Dish says is happening sooner than expected (T-Mobile’s responses on the matter have had strong “stop hitting yourself” vibes). Dish has also been losing wireless subscribers in the hundreds of thousands over recent financial quarters.
AT&T doesn’t operate a CDMA network, so this new deal isn’t meant to address that problem. At the very least it does include a two-year transition period when the agreement ends during which AT&T must cooperate to help users continue their service, so Dish can hopefully avoid additional potential setbacks.