Dish promotes wireless president to COO

With pressure mounting on Dish to hurry up with its 5G network, the US operator has given wireless president John Swieringa additional responsibilities and a new job title.

That ought to do it.

A 14-year veteran of Dish, Swieringa (pictured) most recently served as EVP and president of the retail wireless division, where he oversaw sales, operations, and strategy. He still has to do all that, but now, with his new title of president and COO of Dish Wireless, he also takes responsibility for the deployment and management of the company’s virtualised, OpenRAN-based 5G network.

“His experience in our overall business will help to maximise our wireless opportunities within all lines of the business,” said Dish chairman Charlie Ergen, in a statement. “He and his team will deploy and monetise Dish’s network while advancing our retail, enterprise and wholesale market opportunities.”

It’s probably going too far to call this promotion a poisoned chalice, but it’s also fair to say that when it comes to wireless, things haven’t exactly been going swimmingly for Dish of late.

Its commercial 5G network was due to go live in Las Vegas by the end of 2020, but it was pushed back to September 2021. The launch was quietly delayed again, this time to the first quarter of 2022, to give it more time to conduct beta testing.

In the meantime, it is still spending heavily – as expected – on rolling out the network. Lest we forget that Dish plans to deliver 5G coverage to 70 percent of the American population by 2023 at a cost of around $10 billion. In November, Dish raised $5.25 billion from its latest debt offering to cover the potential cost of future spectrum purchases, and general corporate purposes including its network rollout. That followed a $1.25 billion debt offering in May, which was also for general corporate purposes in addition to refinancing existing debt.

While all this goes on, Dish Wireless is still losing customers. As noted in November, it ended the third quarter of 2021 with 121,000 fewer mobile customers. It lost 212,000 in the same quarter a year earlier. Mobile revenue was also down by 1.2 percent year-on-year to $1.2 billion.

All this has happened with Swieringa at the helm, so for his sake, let’s hope for his sake that his expanded role gives him the levers he needs to turn things round.

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