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Boost boosts low-end market presence with MVNO buy

Dish Network’s Boost Mobile has agreed to acquire Los Angeles-based mobile virtual network operator Gen Mobile.

We don’t know what Dish – via Boost – has agreed to pay for Los Angeles-based Gen Mobile, nor how many customers it will pick up as a result. But it clearly has a plan: the deal will give its presence in the cost-conscious end of the mobile market a lift.

You could argue that, as a prepaid brand, Boost already has a strong presence at the cheaper end of the US mobile market. But this deal seems to be more about specifically targeting the low-income population than simply adding prepaid customers. Furthermore, Dish is on a mission to build up its mobile business as a fourth national operator and is putting Boost front and centre; this is a more niche player with an established brand that will be retained.

“Gen Mobile has an established brand, a proven team and an unwavering commitment to connect the underserved,” said Stephen Stokols, Executive Vice President of Boost Mobile, who will oversee the Gen Mobile brand once the deal closes.

“The brand is a natural addition as we look to reach all segments of the mobile market,” Stokols said.

Gen Mobile is the latest in a series of mobile M&A deals brokered by Dish over the past year.

The satellite TV operator closed its $1.4 billion acquisition of Boost Mobile, which was divested by Sprint as part of its merger with T-Mobile US, in July 2020 and almost immediately set about bulking up the business; it announced the acquisition of MVNO Ting Mobile and its few hundred thousand customers just a month later.

Fast-forward to March this year and Dish announced the acquisition of Republic Wireless and was subsequently linked with US Cellular owner TDS, although the latter appears to have come to nothing, thus far.

It’s starting to look like Dish is picking up small mobile service providers the way it did mobile spectrum a few years ago.

Republic Wireless and Ting Mobile are both virtual players piggybacking on T-Mobile’s network, although Ting also uses Verizon. Similarly, Gen Mobile is also a T-Mobile wholesale customer…but for some reason is being pretty cagey about it.

It is completely open about the fact that it uses Sprint’s CDMA network – which is semi-controversially being shut down by T-Mobile on 1 January – but declined to name T-Mobile on its Website, despite the fact it is widely reported to be one of its customers. “Gen Mobile offers coverage on two of America’s largest nationwide 5G & 4G LTE cellular networks,” and “Gen Mobile offers nationwide 5G service on the nation’s largest 5G GSM network,” its FAQs read, somewhat cryptically.

It’s unclear whether or not that has anything to do with Dish’s high-profile spat with T-Mobile over its network closure plans; the Sprint 4G network will be retired next summer, incidentally.

Dish recently brokered a 10-year, $5 billion mobile network services deal with AT&T that will see it

migrate much of its MVNO operations and roaming needs, including 5G in future, away from T-Mobile.

“The agreement provides enhanced coverage and service for our Boost, Ting and Republic customers,” John Swieringa, Dish COO and Group President of Retail Wireless, said at the time.

Dish made no comment about the future of Gen Mobile’s MVNO deals when it announced the acquisition. It did indicate that as well as retaining the company’s brand and distribution network, it will hang on to its staff.

It also did the customary thing and highlighted the potential benefits of the deal to Americans. In this case, it’s about affordable broadband.

Boost Mobile announced its participation in the US Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) programme, an FCC initiative to provide discounted broadband to households struggling as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Through increased distribution in underrepresented communities, Gen Mobile will be integral in Boost’s efforts to close the digital divide. Gen Mobile will continue to sell its low-cost wireless plans starting at just $10—with other cost-efficient plans to come—and will also accelerate its EBB and Lifeline growth,” Dish said.

The deal needs regulatory approvals. Comments on affordable broadband and closing the digital divide tend to help on that score.

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  • MVNOs North America


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