With Boost acquisition, Dish Network is now a mobile phone company

After acquiring and hoarding wireless spectrum for more than a decade, Dish Network finally gets to sell phone service.
(Image: Dish Network Corporation/Graphic: The Desk)

Dish Network announced on Wednesday it had completed its $1.4 billion acquisition of Boost Mobile away from Sprint, the concluding step in Sprint’s blockbuster mega-merger with T-Mobile that was largely finalized earlier this year.

With the Boost Mobile brand under its control, the satellite broadcaster finally entered the wireless phone market — and industry it had been struggling to break into for more than a decade.

Sprint was forced to divest its prepaid Boost division to satisfy regulatory concerns stemming from its $30 billion with T-Mobile. The two companies formally combined after beating a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen states that sought to prevent the merger.

Dish Network, which has been acquiring wireless spectrum rights since 2008, emerged as a leading candidate for Boost Mobile, with analysts estimating the satellite company would plunk down as much as $6 billion for the phone brand.

The final purchase price fell way short of that mark, though it may ultimately reflect the actual value of Boost Mobile and related properties.

“Today, we are proud to welcome hundreds of employees, thousands of independent retailers, and millions of customers to the Dish [Network] family,” Erik Carlson, Dish Network’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This marks an important milestone in Dish’s evolution as a connectivity company.”

The acquisition is expected to impact around 9 million Boost Mobile customers across the country. Through Sprint, Boost Mobile’s signal reached approximately 70 percent of the United States, making it one of the smaller network offerings available to consumers.

Dish Network could easily change course by allocating some of its spectrum that the company has hoarded over the years to build a strong fourth wireless brand. That idea has its skeptics, but Dish Network has already announced moves that signals its intent to be a wireless phone player for at least the next few years.

On Wednesday, Dish Network said it would immediately start offering Boost Mobile customers two new wireless plans to choose from: A $45 a month unlimited talk and text plan with 15GB of mobile data and a $35 a month unlimited talk and text plan with 10GB of mobile data. The company said it would continue to use the Boost Mobile brand  and activate new phones and plans on “the new T-Mobile network” for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the company says it is hard at work building out “the first virtualized standalone 5G network in America,” which could include assets purchased through the Sprint acquisition combined with Dish Network’s own wireless spectrum.

“We’ll bring new, exciting products and offers to customers that better meet their needs and fit their budgets,” Carlson said.

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