DISH Network and SBA Communications today announced a new long-term master lease agreement (MLA) providing DISH access to SBA’s portfolio of 16.5k wireless communication towers in the United States. The announcement builds upon DISH Network’s progress in securing access to the digital infrastructure it needs to deploy its greenfield 5G network in the U.S.

Master Lease Agreement – SBA Communications and DISH Network

Through the agreement, DISH Network will lease towers from SBA Communications, and SBA will deliver a variety of pre-construction functions. Specifically, these functions range from site acquisition to regulatory and compliance services.

Additionally, SBA Communications’ new agreement with DISH Network includes certain standardization of processes. The purpose of these is to improve DISH’s ability to efficiently access SBA’s tower sites. Indeed, standardization expedites DISH Network’s deployment of new 5G antennas and radios. In turn, this allows DISH to better meet its build-out commitments for its 5G network. Specifically, DISH Network requires deployments on 15k towers, which cover 70% of the United States population, by June 2023.

For SBA Communications, the master lease agreement (MLA) provides a commitment from DISH Network for substantial new minimum lease commitments, over the next several years. In turn, SBA ensures it is a major tower infrastructure provider for DISH’s new greenfield nationwide 5G network.

Revenue Recognition for Master Lease Agreement

SBA Communications contemplates no meaningful leasing revenue, and only a small amount of services revenue (i.e., pre-construction functions) from DISH Network in its 2021 guidance. The company notes that it is possible that some DISH Network leasing revenue will occur in 2021. However, the larger benefit from DISH Network’s leasing of tower sites will accrue in 2022 and beyond.

Importantly, SBA Communications now has a master lease agreement (MLA) with DISH Network. However, further steps need to occur in order for the company to begin recognizing revenue from this transaction. Specifically, lease accounting only begins when a specific tower asset has been leased. Therefore, SBA will not recognize revenue from this contract until specific towers are utilized by DISH and equipment is placed onto those towers.

DISH Network’s 5G radio units, which are supplied Fujitsu, are only expected to arrive at scale in Q3 2021. Therefore, the timing for significant network deployments from DISH will occur in late 2021 and 2022. Once these radios and other equipment are placed onto SBA Communications’ towers, then SBA can start to recognize revenue from DISH’s master lease agreement (MLA).

DISH Network’s 5G Tower Partnerships

Overall, DISH Network has now signed 10 agreements to facilitate its 5G network build-out. Specifically, DISH has access to tower infrastructure from three of the largest providers: Crown Castle, SBA Communications, and Vertical Bridge. Additionally, DISH has agreements with Harmoni Towers, Mobilite, Parallel Infrastructure, Phoenix Tower International, Tillman Infrastructure, Tower Ventures, Vogue Towers.

Adam Simmons is the Founder & CEO of Dgtl Infra. He started his career with an S&P 500-listed big box retailer, in an operations management role. Adam's entrepreneurial "itch" led him to start a 5G-driven company, focused on innovative retail solutions using augmented reality and shoppable videos, which was eventually sold to an advertising and consulting group. After, realizing the potential of 5G, Adam shifted his efforts towards investing in the "building blocks" of 5G - known as digital infrastructure, completing a number of strategic investments, buying cellular towers, data centers and fiber networks.

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