Dish, AT&T team up on 5G with new $5 billion network sharing deal

Dish is hopping onto AT&T's network while it builds its own.

Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise 5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
Eli Blumenthal
2 min read
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Dish's wireless ambitions took another step toward some fruition on Monday, with the satellite provider announcing a new network sharing deal with AT&T. The deal, which runs 10 years, will see Dish pay AT&T "at least $5 billion" according to an 8K filed by the company.

Under the agreement, Dish will be able to have its customers use AT&T's 5G network with AT&T gaining the ability to deploy some of Dish's wireless spectrum "to support DISH customers on the AT&T network." It also allows the wireless carrier the option "to request to use portions of Dish's spectrum in different markets for an agreed upon period of time." 

Dish currently operates three mobile brands -- Boost Mobile, Ting and Republic Wireless -- and has teased that it plans to launch a new brand as it begins to turn on its own 5G network later this year. The new brand, "and all future Dish brands" will be able to utilize AT&T's network, according to the document. 

The satellite provider has spent years and billions of dollars acquiring valuable wireless spectrum, the airwaves necessary for running a mobile network. As part of T-Mobile's merger with Sprint last year, Dish acquired the divested Boost Mobile brand from Sprint as well as an additional 800MHz spectrum as part of a Department of Justice brokered deal

Read more: How Dish Network saved the T-Mobile Sprint merger

Dish also gained the ability to use T-Mobile's network for seven years while it built out its own 5G network. The company is in the process of building out that service now, with Las Vegas set to become Dish's first 5G city at some point in the third quarter. 

Stephen Stokols, executive vice president of Boost Mobile, told CNET in May that "multiple" additional 5G cities will come online in the fourth quarter of 2021 though he did not say where exactly those cities will be. 

With the new AT&T deal, Dish will still be able to use T-Mobile's network while adding an additional provider for when that government-brokered deal expires. 

Over time AT&T will become the main roaming network for Dish users, who will also be able to utilize AT&T's network "even within the markets where Dish is deploying its own 5G network."