Sprint, Dish Network Team Up To Offer Fixed LTE at Home
By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated December 18, 2013.
Sprint and Dish Network are working together on a trial that could expand both of their businesses into broadband Internet. The companies announced Tuesday that they are jointly conducting an experiment with fixed LTE wireless service for residences, initially in some areas of Corpus Christi, Texas.
For the trial, which will begin in the middle of next year, an all-weather outdoor router or an indoor router will be installed in subscribing residences by Dish. The router will contain high-gain antennae for the 4G TDD-LTE signal, which will be delivered through Sprint's 2.5-GHz band. If the Corpus Christi trial is successful, the companies intend to expand into other markets, targeted at homes and businesses.
The companies said the joint trial combines the unique resources of both parties. Tom Cullen, Dish executive vice president of Corporate Development, said in a statement that his company offers "a workforce of professional technicians who visit thousands of homes every day performing professional installations for both video and broadband."
Sprint, Clearwire and SoftBank
Michael Schwartz, senior vice president of Corporate and Business Development at Sprint, told news media that the collaboration helps "identify and develop new and innovative products and services that maximize the use and utility of our spectrum and flexible network infrastructure."
Dish Network provides satellite TV to more than 14 million customers, and Sprint provides wireless and wireline phone/data service to over 54 million customers. Recently, Dish engaged in a bidding war with Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank for control of Sprint, but was not successful. Over the summer, Sprint, Clearwire and SoftBank merged.
In the trial, the companies are using Sprint's spectrum, not Dish's. Dish's technicians can readily install the wireless broadband router at the same time they are visiting a home to install a satellite TV receiver, meaning that Dish could begin to compete more directly with cable and phone companies that are providing phone and broadband Internet as well as TV. Dish is seeking to expand its business beyond the fairly saturated TV delivery market.
For Underserved Areas
Sprint's position as the third-largest mobile phone provider and Dish's as the second-largest satellite TV provider means that both could benefit by offering broadband Internet to the underserved 20 percent of the U.S. that has limited choices for broadband Internet. Most of that 20 percent is in rural areas.
Ken Dulaney, vice president at industry research firm Gartner, told us that this joint effort "only makes sense for the underserved areas," as there is enough broadband service available in the metropolitan areas. He also said that LTE fixed wireless doesn't always provide "great performance," so it might come out behind in a head-to-head competition in the cities.
The 4G expansion had been "part of what Clearwire was trying to do" before the merger in the summer, Dulaney added, so this trial project continues that direction.