By Joseph Chalfant

Dish Network has reached a 10-year deal with AT&T to become Dish’s primary network for the company’s wireless customers.

AT&T will provide service to Dish’s mobile virtual network operator subsidiaries (MVNO) Boost Mobile, Ting, and Republic wireless with a collective customer base of 8.89 million. The multi-year deal comes with an estimated value of $5 billion, according to CNBC.

MVNOs account for the majority of American cell carriers. They offer coverage from one or a combination of AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon’s network at a heavily discounted rate and lower priority status than the main provider’s primary customers, according to Tom’s Guide.

Dish initially partnered with T-Mobile as their MVNO provider, but Dish has been looking for alternatives since T-Mobile announced its intentions to shut off 3G coverage by January 1, 2022. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dish had concerns that millions of customers would lose service before upgrading to 4G or 5G compatible smartphones.

The deal will provide Dish with plenty of time to build out its own 5G infrastructure, which could open the door for a return of a fourth major carrier after T-Mobile acquired Sprint. The company has spent around $2 billion acquiring the frequency spectrums required for developing its network. Dish chairman Charlie Ergen believes that the 5G network could come online as soon as Q3 2021 for major US cities, according to The Verge.

“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,” Dish CEO John Swieringa told the New York Post.

AT&T overtook Verizon as America’s largest telecom provider in early 2018, according to Statista. At the end of 2021’s first quarter, the company had captured a further .03% of the mobile market to achieve a 44.8% stake in the US market. Quarterly reports show that AT&T has 186 million wireless users, and the influx of an additional 9 million should only help to cement their dominant position.