While Dish Network appears to be on track to cover 20% of the US population with 5G by the June 14 deadline set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the company may have another big hurdle in its path. overcome: voice communications. Analysts believe that the development of a 5G voice service has been a bottleneck for the entire industry.
VoNR is a work in progress, meaning Dish may have to rely on 5G for data only
“Our understanding is that getting standalone 5G voice services (called VoNR or ‘voice over new radio’) to work seamlessly has proven challenging for the industry as a whole,” New Street analysts said. Research.
“While VoNR works for Dish in Las Vegas, we feel it has been difficult to optimize it in other markets, and specifically, to seamlessly transfer between VoNR on Dish’s network and VoLTE on AT&T or T-Mobile’s network when a customer roams beyond Dish’s network coverage and on MVNOs.”
This update from the research group comes after the FCC opened a case to assess Dish’s compliance with the terms of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. Speaking to Fierce Wireless, a Dish spokesperson confirmed that VoNR was part of its recent network rollout in Las Vegas, NV. However, the rep did not say whether VoNR has been rolled out to other areas of the United States.
New Street analysts point out that major carriers like T-Mobile continue to use VoLTE, which leverages LTE for voice. This despite T-Mobile aggressively expanding its 5G portfolio across the United States. According to the researchers, this highlights the problems faced by operators in implementing 5G-based voice communications.
Keeping that in mind, analysts predict that Dish might stick with MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) for voice services. This would even apply to areas that fall under the aforementioned 20% coverage band. “Still, if complaints about Dish’s compliance with its commitments arise, we believe they will relate to this issue,” the researchers noted.
What does the future look like?
Roger Entner, industry analyst and founder of Recon Analytics, said voice over 5G “isn’t working” right now. There are other concerns for Dish too, given that it’s launching a cloud-based network. In addition, it is based on the principles of the open radio access network (RAN). It’s still relatively new to the industry, especially on a scale like this.