For many years, it’s been rumored that Dish Network and DirecTV would one day merge, or at least form a tie-up of some sort. They have attempted to do just that, on multiple occasions, and it was frequently discussed in the tech press last year when it was first clear that AT&T was planning to sell a stake in DirecTV.
Now, Dish Network has announced a deal with AT&T which, for now, is DirecTV’s parent company. But it doesn’t have anything to do with pay-TV.
According to Deadline, Dish and AT&T have agreed to a deal in which Dish will pay AT&T more than $5 billion over ten years to make AT&T Dish’s wireless network provider. This is part of Dish’s pivot to the telecom field.
“Through this agreement, DISH will provide current and future customers of its retail wireless brands, including Boost Mobile, Ting Mobile and Republic Wireless, access to best-in-class coverage and connectivity on AT&T's wireless network, in addition to the new DISH 5G network,” the press release from Dish said. “The agreement accelerates DISH's expansion of retail wireless distribution to rural markets where DISH provides satellite TV services. AT&T is also providing transport and roaming services as part of the agreement, to support DISH's 5G network.”
T-Mobile had previously been Dish’s mobile partner.
"Teaming with AT&T on this long-term partnership will allow us to better compete in the retail wireless market and quickly respond to changes in our customers' evolving connectivity needs as we build our own first-of-its-kind 5G network," John Swieringa, DISH COO and Group President of Retail Wireless, said in the announcement. "The agreement provides enhanced coverage and service for our Boost, Ting and Republic customers, giving them access to the best connectivity on the market today via voice, messaging, data and nationwide roaming on AT&T's vast network, as well as DISH's 5G network."
A Dish/DirecTV opening?
While the deal has nothing to do with DirecTV, CNBC reported Monday that it “potentially foreshadows” a tie-up between the satellite providers.
Analyst Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research told CNBC that the Dish/AT&T deal “ brings the companies closer together and further increases the likelihood that [Dish Chairman Charlie] Ergen and AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey attempt a Dish-DirecTV merger down the road.” One roadblock preventing a Dish/DirecTV tie-up in the past—the bad feelings created by a failing merger in 2007—would seem to have been solved by the announcement of Monday’s deal.
There remain, however, antitrust concerns about DirecTV and Dish going under one roof.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.