Dish Network calls T-Mobile “anti-competitive” over premature CDMA shutdown date


In its recently conducted Q4 earnings call, Dish Network called T-Mobile as “anti-competitive.” This was in reference to T-Mobile’s plans to shut down its legacy 3G CDMA network on January 1, 2022. Once the shut down takes place, this will mean a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for Boost Mobile and will also affect millions of customers. 

According to Stephen Stokols, head of Boost Mobile, plans have already been set in place to migrate Boost customers. But according to the executive, they are working at a pace that aligns with their organic churn and upgrades. The January 22 CDMA shutdown schedule, however, adds pressure for the company to complete its plans 18-24 months earlier.

Before Dish decided to acquire Boost, it signed a seven-year MVNO deal that would allow its customers to continue using T-Mobile’s network. This is enough time for Dish to build its own 5G network. With this agreement, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DoJ) decided to approve the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.  

As of this writing, Boost has over 9 million subscribers. The impending CDMA shutdown will affect millions of those customers and will leave them without a network, unless they purchase a new device, SIM, and upgrade their software. The only solution is for Dish or Boost to rollout its upgrades earlier than anticipated. 

With this option, Dish needs to find a way to accelerate its efforts and invest for a premature upgrade. Dish believes that while this is a huge cost, it still is an investment they have to make. Otherwise, their whole business will be significantly affected. 

There is a chance that the government will step in and help out with this concern of Dish’s. But right now, the FCC has not commented on any action they intend to take. There’s also a possibility that T-Mobile will push back the CDMA network shutdown to a later date. But if it has any plans to do so, Dish needs to know as soon as possible. 


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  • Keith Stevens

    Dish was and is NEVER going to even make the network. They have hoarded spectrum for years and years with zero interest in a network. Anti Competitive? you mean like dish?Lol.Dish just needs to STFU

  • DaHawk

    I feel for them in a way but has Dish even started building out a network yet with any of the spectrum they own? If not then screw them for slacking and waiting around.

  • Kendrix

    With all the spectrum they refused to used over the past decade and T-Mobile is anti competitive? They need to get over it and do what they are supposed to do and build a decent network for their customers

    • Keith Stevens

      Amen man…. amen

  • JG

    Wouldn’t this be as much, if not more so, Dish’s failure to make good business decisions than T-Mobile being anti-competitive?

    They had to have known T-Mobile wanted to kill the CDMA network ASAP.

    Rather than following T-Mobile’s lead and actively trying to get users to upgrade, Dish decided to just sit on their hands and hope customers with older phones would just naturally decide to upgrade?

    They have basically a full year before the network is shut down. That should be enough time for them to actively start promoting the switch… Offer some deals to get people to upgrade earlier.

    • Zerovanity

      The problem is they still have to change customers to they own native network in the future. They were planning on one forced change not two. The phone market is not ready for Dish’s network. (How many phones on the market support band n70?). The customers that have to be forced to upgrade do not like it and the process can drive them away.

      • Shaun Michalak

        I do not think that it is so much about band 70 compatibility.. Band 70 is so close to band 4, that they pretty much are interchangeable.. All they need to do is a software change to be able to enable it.. The bigger problem is more with it being on 5G, since that is the only thing that DISH is going to offer.. I guess it is a good thing that they have that 7 year agreement to be able to use T-Mobiles network for that long.. But then again, who says that they will not extend it after that with an agreement??

        • Zerovanity

          The upload of band 70 is just below bands 4/66, but the download is above band 25.

        • Shaun Michalak

          My point was more toward the fact that phones support it in the fact that they were designed to use those ranges.. Unlike the C-band spectrum from the government auctions.

          For those that read this and do not know what frequencies they are.. Band then download then upload frequencies.

          Band 4 1710 – 1755 2110 – 2155
          Band 70 1695 – 1710 1995 – 2020
          Band 25 1850 – 1915 1930 – 1995

    • Shaun Michalak

      The real problem here is 5G.. Yes, they can get people to upgrade.. But since DISH is going to be a full, and only 5G network when they install it.. 5G phones are not a majority right now, nor are the really cheap either.. I think the cheapest one I have seen is about $300. With that being said, if people did upgrade to a 4G phone, then they would have to upgrade again to a 5G to be able to access the DISH network.

      It would not surprise me if it was not so much about them dropping 3G, but more along the lines of DISH only being 5G, and 5G phones being a minority in what is available right now.. I think that DISH was probably hoping that T-Mobile would hold off on the 3G shutdown until DISH could get some 5G phones in mass, and at a cheaper price due to more availability, so this way, they could get people to go straight to 5G phones, and offer them themselves. But DISH’s lack of 4G coverage is really going to hurt them here.. and with their lack of frequency, they do not have enough to really do both without doing DSS like AT&T or Verizon, which if they did, would only cost them more to get it set up, and make more work for them too.

      DISH not getting much in spectrum at these recent auctions is going to hurt them in the long run too.. That is, unless they can later buy some from someone else.

    • marque2

      Funny thing is, customers with phones that old 6+ years will never upgrade through attrition.

  • Willie D

    Sucks to be Boost but they signed an agreement to use TMobiles network, not Sprint legacy network. So…..

    • Shaun Michalak

      Not really.. Actually, they are better off in a way.. Being on T-Mobiles network that is.. Actually, they should be grateful that they are not going to be immediately switched to Dish / aka Boost right from Sprint.. Because no matter how you look at it, Boost is going to be a pure and only 5G network, with no other capabilities.., So with that being said, the average percent of people on 3G are about the same as 5G right now.. So instead of 5% needing a new phone, there would be 95% needing one if not for T-Mobiles agreement to use their network for all customers, which is mostly 4G customers..

      I still laugh at the irony that while Dish is complaining about the 5% not compatible, they in fact are not even going to be set up for more then 5% that are compatible, aka have 5G phones..

  • Jason Caprio

    “The impending CDMA shutdown will affect millions of those customers and will leave them without a network, unless they purchase a new device, SIM, and upgrade their software.”

    Yeah, if their phone is like 15 years old. Give me a break!

    • Shaun Michalak

      Even if they don’t have a phone that old.. The way I look at it, to say “millions” as in, more then one.. They only have 9 million subscribers.. So they are saying that over 20% of their subscribers are still using only 3G phones?? I highly doubt that.. To quote an article..

      “Opensignal found that only 4.1% of the approximately 30 million Americans who still use 3G do not have a 4G-capable device.”

      So yea, on average on 4.1% of users have a 3G only phone, as in no 4G.. But somehow Boost is the exception with a 20% 3G phone customer rating.. If you can’t see the irony in that statement, and how ridiculous it is.

      • marque2

        The phones would have to be over 6 years old. They do have some 3g/4g phones in the 6 year range that support only 3g today, because the 4g on those phones was implemented in Wi-Max which is now defunct.

        • Shaun Michalak

          True, but that does not change the fact that opensignal only found, across the country, only 4.1% that had 3G only phones.. and to be fair, I highly doubt that number would go up that much adding in 4G that was not LTE.. Especially since it was just a short term thing that they sold those..

        • marque2

          You are right, I really doubt that many CDMA only phones exist any more.

  • DannyMac

    Dish, do you know what’s actually anti-competitive? Hoarding mountains of choice spectrum to do nothing but sit on. How about you start to actually rollout that network you say you’ve been working on and migrating your Boost customers to that?

    • Zerovanity

      They can’t. The first phone that is likely to support band n70 is the Samsung S22 next year. Now how important will band n70 in the future Dish network? Bands n71 and n26 will be important for coverage, so bands n29, n66, and n70 will most likely be for speed.

    • Shaun Michalak

      They can’t yet.. In order for Dish to truly start rolling out their network, they need a good stand alone 5G network with VoNR support and phones that support carrier aggregation. .. Which I am not sure if they have yet. T-mobile is the only one that actually close to supporting all that right now. at least, that I know of. The problem is, Dish is doing straight 5G, and only 5G on their network.. The others can do it in steps because they all have 4G to rely back on.. But since Dish does not have 4G to do that, they are stuck until they get things fully worked out for 5G to fully run by itself.

  • Shaun Michalak

    Both Verizon and AT&T are talking about fully shutting down their 3G networks in or by 2022, but T-Mobile does it and it is anti competitive?? They make it sound like they have no other choice for service.. Heck, if you are still using a 3G phone, then pretty much any 4G phone, even a $30 one, is going to outperform your phone.. So what is the problem??

    Not only that, but is Dish going to support 3G?? The last I heard, they were going to have a fully 5G network when they install it, so why would they expect another company to support something that they have no plans on supporting themselves?

    As of Nov 2020, Boost had about 9.2 million subscribers. Taking that on average, there is less then 10% that still use 3G phones right now on any network, then even at 10%, that would be 0.9 million subscribers.. So how does this effect “millions” of their subscribers, when I doubt even 1 million are still using only 3G phones?? Sounds a little off to me.

    • Zerovanity

      Sprint was the last network to upgrade their complete LTE network to support VoLTE. This makes them more reliant on the 3G network than AT&T, Verizon, or the T-Mobile 3G network. That said at the merger trial Dish stated they did not need the 3G network, so they have no cause to complain.

      • Shaun Michalak

        I did not say that they were not the last.. That was not the point.. The fact that most (if not all) of Sprints 3G is on band 26.. T-Mobile has to have band 26 stopped within 3 years so that Dish can buy it.. T-Mobile is saying that they are leaving it up for close to 2 years.. They are complaining that they are not waiting until the last day to turn it off?? Sounds kind of crazy to ask a company to bend to your will when they are trying to get their network combined, and you (DISH) is asking them to go the extra mile out of their way to keep something up that they, themselves are not even going to keep up themselves..

        Especially since the number of people effected are going to be the few, not the majority.. and the fact that since they have a 7 year guarantee to be able to use T-Mobiles network, that means that they can keep any 4G phone that they get now and use it for a while to come.. They do not have to make sure it is a 5G phone..

      • marque2

        They did a misstep and tried to do 4g using Wi-Max, and that failed so they switched to LTE, but then they were about 4 years behind. However, that was 2010 – 2014 news – today is 2021 – I would be surprised to see many Sprint/Virgin/Boost phones that didn’t support 4g.

        I am guessing as Shaun said the issue is that Dish doesn’t want to have to subsidize a 4g phone only to have to subsidize 5g phone again in a few years.

    • Casey Grim

      It is just Dish being a big baby and I think that if other carriers are doing it then there should be no problem for T-Mobile doing it. Dish knows it can’t build out it’s own without having CDMA and wants to make a big fuss about it.

      • Shaun Michalak

        Well, that is just it.. They plan to build it out without CDMA.. Because they want a full 5G network, with no other G on it.. Not even 4G.. Which really is not bad considering that they have a limited amount of frequency, so just 5G will be more efficient.. But the problem is, they can not build it out until they get things working right… That includes stand alone 5g, with carrier aggregation, VoNR, and phones to support it all.. Which is what is really going to kill them..

        The stand alone they could do, carrier aggregation is just starting to get in place, and the same with VoNR.. But T-Mobile is the closest to all of them, and from what I have read, will have them all in place by the end of this year.. But if T-Mobile does not have them in place, and they already have 5G on their towers, so it would be easiest for them to do it.. Then that tells me it is going to be a while before DISH has any real setup in place for coverage in the near future..

        People that want basic, or cheap phones, are going to be left out.. The cheapest 5G phone is close to $300.. So people that do not want to spend more then $100 are screwed. There is no flip phone that is 5G that I know of, so flip phone users are out.. This is where T-Mobile is saving them.. Because with the 7 year agreement to use the T-Mobile network, that is the only way for people with 4G phones to get coverage with them.

  • Brad C

    Dish just does not want to pay for phone swaps, or software updates to enable VoLTE.

    Boost/Sprint sold non-VoLTE phones until pretty recently (most can likely be updated via software to support VoLTE – but that also costs R&D for Dish)

    Shut the network off and force Dish to pony up working with those customers.