DISH to Acquire Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless doesn't get much attention here, however, like Ting Mobile before it: DISH to acquire Republic Wireless. Apparently, being an independent MVNO is no longer a viable business model.

In addition to the Republic and Ting transactions with DISH, Consumer Cellular was recently sold to private equity firm GTCR: Bad news for old people: Consumer Cellular sold. - VOIP Tech Chat | DSLReports Forums.

I was sorry to hear about Consumer Cellular-- not a great fit for me, but I think they were doing really well with targeting a particular market segment & providing good, differentiating, service to that market.

Republic was always an odd duckling. It will be interesting to see whether Dish maintains their unusual tech requirements, or is more interested in repurposing the brand.

I think being an independent MVNO has always been tough, especially finding a market niche. We seem to see smaller MVNOs who haven't found their niche bought out by larger MVNEs (who were likely already handling a lot of the back office work), and larger MVNOs who have found a niche bought out by investment firms or large businesses like Dish. In some ways, I think this indicates that being an MVNO is a viable business model, but that remaining independent is less likely. (The failures disappear, the successful ones are bought out. But for the most part, those larger companies seem to be content to let the MVNOs do all the sweaty work first.)

If Dish wants to compete getting big fast is a good strategy.

Not as good for consumers though with more mvnos eaten up. I think though if the carriers can bring out decent plans themselves the MVNO market is going to start to become more and more redundant.

I reckon Tello won't last long at this rate.

A second read of the Dish article had me focusing on this:
"After the acquisition closes, the existing Relay division of Republic Wireless will continue to operate as a standalone company and will become a wholesale customer on DISH's 5G network. Relay provides communication and productivity solutions for frontline teams in hospitality, facilities management, manufacturing, healthcare and education"

Honestly, that points out a really cool application for Republic's WiFi First technology that hadn't ever occurred to me before. (Use within large facilities teams where communication is a must, but traditional cellphone coverage is problematic.)

I'm not sure where the split between Dish and Republic's 'relay' business will occur, but the situation above does seem to dovetail with Dish's need for a customer base while not having much of it's own (native) tower capability. Perhaps a much better acquisition than my first reaction....

One might think of Relay as more walkie-talkie than phone. Or, somewhat analogous to the old Nextel push-to-talk. Relay is entirely data based and, today, rides on TMO's, Sprint's and AT&T's (via GigSky) networks. Republic already more or less operates Relay as if it were a separate company complete with its own website:

As for DISH's 5G network, for now, that seems more aspirational than real.

Per a conversation I had with an RW employee today, Relay looks like it's staying its own thing, but it would make sense if it starts using Dish's network.

Indeed, Relay is staying its own thing. For all practical purposes, Relay's always been its own thing treated separately from Republic's cellular phone service. Unlike, Republic's cellular service, which is Android only, Relay's companion app runs on both Android and iOS. Relay uses an entirely separate account management portal and has a separate support structure within Republic. Republic cellular service is not a prerequisite for Relay service.

As a wholesale customer on DISH's forthcoming 5G network, it's simply adding another network option. I've not seen anything indicating Relay will exclusively use DISH's forthcoming 5G network. As mentioned in a previous post, Relay offers a choice of cellular networks today and there isn't necessarily a reason to believe that's changing as a result of this acquisition.

Some additional information including word regarding Relay's future: CEO keeping device firm Relay in Raleigh, is hiring after parent Republic Wireless is sold to DISH | WRAL TechWire.

Tello would seem to be an attractive target for someone though I have no idea what their subscriber base is. Tello, I believe, shares ownership with VoIP provider KeepCalling: Perhaps, that makes them less likely to be interested in selling?

The news has just hit the RW forums, and there's barely anything positive from the community:

Folks don't like change and there isn't much concrete information to share that would dispel angst. For better or worse, DISH's reputation in the pay TV space precedes it and that reputation isn't particularly good. Some answering in the thread have pointed toward the experience with DISH's acquisition of Ting, however, in the absence of greater detail as to what the future holds, that only gets one so far.

Speaking from the inside, it's been largely positive. A lot of "big picture" things we'd wanted to do for many years but just didn't have the capital or budget for may soon be actual realities. But an $18-billion dollar company can open those kinds of doors for you in a way nobody else can.

I totally get where the RW community is on this, as they feel it's an immediate loss of something dear to them. In time I hope they get to experience the same kinds of great things we're seeing on Ting Mobile.

Of course, the big picture is crucial to the health of the company and, therefore, to customers collectively. From the perspective of the individual customer, it's about how will this affect me? Or, alternatively, what's in it for me? Until Republic/DISH are prepared to articulate why the acquisition is good for current customers beyond corporate happy talk about partnerships and taking things to the next level; the expectation should be the reaction will be mostly negative.

The reality is no current Republic customer chose to be a DISH customer for mobile service. That's a choice being made for them.

All of that said, my advice to fellow Republic customers is to sit tight and see what happens. If there are changes one doesn't like, one is free to look at alternatives.

Some additional DISH Wireless news not directly related to the proposed DISH acquisition of Republic:

My understanding is that DISH's commitment to the FCC is to build a greenfield (meaning from scratch) 5G network covering 70% of the U.S. population by mid-2023. Towers certainly are a prerequisite for that. Meanwhile, DISH absent other developments would presumably be reliant on its seven-year MVNO agreement with T-Mobile resulting from the T-Mobile/Sprint merger.

Speaking of potential other developments, there's rumors DISH might target U.S. Cellular for acquisition. An acquisition of U.S. Cellular would presumably give DISH (and by extension possibly Republic/Ting/Boost) access to U.S. Cellular's roaming agreements with one or more of the larger national carriers and. U.S. Cellular coverage itself. Of course, there's much speculation involved here but these are, if nothing else, interesting times in the cellular market:

rolandh, thanks for this thread!

I grew up in, and still visit, a rural area where US Cellular is definitely the coverage king, especially with their roaming agreements. I can understand why it could be a useful acquisition target for someone.

I guess this was the plan all along. Tmobile buy sprint and 4 become 3. Dish grow quickly so 3 become 4.

It is indeed the plan, however, DISH growth as an MVNO alone won't suffice. DISH needs to get that greenfield 5G network off the ground and up and running.

More reading of the tea leaves: Unpacking the DISH/Republic Wireless Deal - Inside Towers.