Dish Network on Monday trumpeted the signing of a 5G security deal with Palo Alto Networks, but it has more than just its own infrastructure to worry about at present.

The TV provider-turned-mobile operator is all bent out of shape about rival T-Mobile USA’s plans to shut down its CDMA network at the start of next year, the very network that supports its Boost Mobile customers.

A quick recap, if one were needed: Dish Network acquired formerly Sprint-owned MVNO Boost Mobile as part of T-Mobile’s $26 billion takeover of Sprint last summer. Boost currently forms the major part of Dish’s nascent wireless business and accounts for the majority of its 9 million mobile customers.

Dish claims that it had been promised a three-year migration timeline as part of the deal, but since T-Mobile has reneged on its plans and is now working towards closing down the Sprint CDMA infrastructure on 1 January 2022.

“Unfortunately, a majority of our 9 million Boost customers (many of whom face economic challenges) have devices that rely on Sprint’s CDMA network and will be harmed if T-Mobile prematurely shuts down that network,” Dish Network said in a filing with the FCC late last week.

“A forced migration of this scale under this accelerated time frame is simply not possible and will leave potentially millions of Boost subscribers disenfranchised and without cell service come January 1, 2022. This is especially the case given significant device/chip shortages that make it even more difficult to acquire compatible replacement devices prior to the shutdown,” it said.

Essentially, many Boost Mobile customers will struggle to find the cash to upgrade their phones to something that will run on a newer network, Dish is claiming. And that obviously leaves Dish with a lot of disconnected customers.

“We believe that T-Mobile’s actions raise significant competition and public interest concerns. We hope that T-Mobile reconsiders its decision to shut down the CDMA network prematurely so Boost subscribers will not be impacted and Dish can continue providing consumers with competitive choices,” the document reads.

Dish’s comments on the CDMA shutdown form part of a filing in which it hits out at T-Mobile’s opposition to increasing power levels in the CBRS band – something it once supported – a move that would broaden usage of the band and potentially open up competition from smaller players. Dish took the opportunity to take a swipe at T-Mobile’s general approach to competition: the filing is essentially a “you’ve changed, man” missive that accuses T-Mobile of pulling up the latter behind it.

“As T-Mobile celebrates the one-year anniversary of its acquisition of Sprint, it is clear that the company’s worldview has transformed to that of an entrenched incumbent commensurate with its newfound size and scale,” Dish said. “During its earlier life as the ‘Un-Carrier,’ T-Mobile championed policies that promoted competition, diverse spectrum ownership, and efficient spectrum use. How quickly things change.”

Dish is a pretty big player in the satellite TV space, so starting up as a mobile operator with a few million customers is something of a change of pace.

Its rate of progress in the mobile market has been glacial to date – it has been hanging on to a fair amount of wireless spectrum for about a decade – but the Boost Mobile purchase was a turning point and it has announced a raft of deals linked to the rollout of its own 5G infrastructure over the past few months.

It is rightly proud of its plans to roll out a cloud native, OpenRAN-based network. And this week Palo Alto Networks revealed that it has been contracted by Dish to help with securing that network. The deal involves container security, secure network slicing, real-time threat correlation, and dynamic security enforcement, the companies said.

“As part of our efforts to revolutionize wireless connectivity, it’s imperative that we integrate security into our 5G network from the ground up. As a result, we are incorporating innovative, next-generation vendors to provide our network with 5G-native security solutions from day one of deployment,” said Marc Rouanne, Dish’s Chief Network Officer.

The deal highlights the gap between the two aspects of Dish’s new mobile business. On one side, it is building out a state-of-the-art network that will one day – it hopes – attract high-spending 5G customers, while on the other it is fighting to ensure continued mobile network connectivity for some of the lowest-spending customers in the US. It is not yet clear how comfortably the country’s fourth mobile operator sits within the market, but it’s obvious that it believes there is now a hole where the ‘Un-Carrier’ used to reside.




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