Dish Network is getting more acclimated to the wireless retail space with a new handset for its prepaid Boost Mobile customers.

Dish today introduced the Celero5G, its first proprietary 5G phone. Designed “from the ground up with 5G in mind,” the Celero5G will be available later this fall.

It just so happens that Dish will be launching its first 5G beta market in Las Vegas in the fourth quarter of this year – which, by the looks of the calendar, could be any day now. The satellite TV company and long-time spectrum connoisseur is in the midst of becoming a facilities-based wireless service provider on its own.

The Celero5G launch comes about a week after Boost started offering Apple’s new iPhone 13 lineup. The iPhone 13 starts at $830, and Boost offers various no-contract plans.

The more affordable Android-based Celero5G sells on pre-order for $280 online. Through October 31, new and existing customers will get 12 months of “free unlimited” talk, text and data on their new Celero5G for that price, plus a specially designed phone case. The Celero5G will be available at Boost Mobile branded retail locations and at national retail. 

“Our goal at Boost is to empower our customers with what they need, when they need it,” said Stephen Stokols, head of Boost Mobile, in a statement. “Subscribers have told us loud and clear: they want speed, cool features, and a fair price. The Celero5G is built to make 5G affordable.” 

Latin word for speed

The name of the phone was drawn from the Latin word for speed, and while Boost’s press release doesn’t list peak data speeds, a spokesperson said it uses the MediaTek 7000 Dimensity (MT6833) chipset, which is billed as the “first mainstream smartphone 5G chip.”

In response to a “why now?” question, the spokesperson explained that with LG leaving the mobile device market and creating “seismic shifts” in the supplier landscape, the company saw an opportunity. The departure of LG left a significant hole in the Boost lineup, and the Celero5G is the response to fill that gap.

While Dish is building its 5G network, it’s not yet commercially operational and Dish has been using an MVNO arrangement with T-Mobile to serve Boost customers. (That’s the arrangement at the center of the CDMA controversy.) Dish also struck an MVNO deal with AT&T, so it has two operator networks at its disposal.  

In early 2022, the Celero5G also will be able to use AT&T’s 5G network, and the handset will work on the Dish 5G network once that’s up and running. “Celero has two 5G bands that are part of our 5G MNO network: n66 and n71,” the spokesperson told Fierce. The n66 and n71 correspond to AWS and 600 MHz bands.

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Dish is a relatively new entrant and doesn’t have the handset buying power that one of the Big 3 carriers brings to the table – it can’t exactly go for volume discounts.

“They don’t have the sway that a Verizon or AT&T does for Apple” or other big OEMs, said Bill Ho, principal analyst at 556 Ventures.

Of course, Dish wants access to mainstream phones that everybody else has, but by offering its own custom-made handset, it can tailor it to its own specs.

“Kudos for them for contingency planning,” Ho said. “Someone smartly thought about controlling their own destiny by having their own device. This is part of a long-term effort, I believe. There’s multiple things going on here,” including the ability to support Dish’s own spectrum bands.

Dish isn’t saying who’s behind the manufacture of the device, other than to say it’s one of the largest global manufacturers, which, Ho noted, doesn’t say much but is an indication that it’s not some kind of fly-by-night outfit. “They know what they’re doing is another take-away from that,” he said.

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