The DISH Network and Tucows Inc. jointly announced today that DISH has acquired some Ting Mobile assets from Tucows. A representative speaking on behalf of Tucows told BestMVNO that DISH has acquired the right to use the Ting Mobile brand for two years and Ting Mobile's loyal customer relationships. At the end of March 2020, Tucows reported that Ting Mobile had 153,600 total accounts and 271,700 subscribers.
As part of the agreement, Tucows will continue to run all aspects of the Ting Mobile business for DISH including the handling of customer support. DISH will also gain access to the mobile software platform developed by Tucows which can provide DISH with services among others that include customer billing, activation, provisioning, and funnel marketing. DISH's roughly 9 million Boost Mobile customers are expected to transition over to the Tucows platform in the second half of 2021.
The software platform offered by Tucows will make up the bulk of its newly launched Mobile Services Enabler (MSE) business which DISH is now its first customer of. Tucows says that it wants to focus on its new MSE business on a global scale where it plans to become a disruptor. Other MVNOs will also be able to use the platform in time where Tucows says it will offer "the absolute most competitive pricing on the new T-Mobile network."
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Financial details of the agreement between DISH and Tucows have not been disclosed, but a representative from Ting told Light Reading that "there is no consideration at close. Instead, Tucows will receive a fair value earnout for the life of the Ting Mobile subscribers." Translation: DISH is getting Ting's subscribers without paying cash upfront. However, Light Reading does report that DISH will pay Tucows a fee to use its MSE platform.
What DISH's Acquisition Means For Ting Mobile Subscribers
A press release from the DISH Network stated that "effective August 1, 2020, most Ting Mobile customers across the U.S. became customers of DISH." It was stressed that the acquired customers will have access to the new T-Mobile network just like DISH's recently acquired Boost Mobile customers do. Ting Mobile has long used T-Mobile and the now-former Sprint network to provide service to its subscribers, however, Verizon was added as a network partner just a few months ago.
The fact that the press release mentions that "most Ting Mobile customers" became customers of DISH leads me to believe that something else is in-store for Ting's Verizon user base. The subscribers on that network may not have been a part of DISH's acquisition of Ting Mobile assets. A firm speaking on behalf of Ting told BestMVNO that Ting has just a small number of Verizon based subscribers. The firm could not comment further on what will happen to those particular subscribers other than to say "our announcement today speaks to the bulk of the Ting Mobile business as communicated with employees, press, partners, investors. We will be happy to discuss the finer points, including plans as they pertain to Verizon, soon." The DISH Network has an agreement exclusively with T-Mobile to allow its Boost Mobile subscribers to use the T-Mobile network. Verizon based subscribers would technically be incompatible with DISH. So it's possible Verizon based Ting subscribers may see some changes soon if they were not included in DISH's acquisition. All other Ting subscribers shouldn't immediately notice anything different since Tucows will continue to run the brand on DISH's behalf.
Both companies do believe DISH's acquisition will be a win for Ting's subscribers. A statement from the firm representing Ting said the move will allow for a "renewed ability for Ting Mobile to innovate on price, staying true to its roots." DISH does appear to have an interest in serving budget conscientious subscribers as it intends to launch new plans at the end of the week starting at $10/month for an unlimited talk & text plan with 1GB of data. The service features offered at that price are currently better than anything offered at Ting.
DISH Will Only Have The Right To Use Ting Mobile Brand Name For Two Years
An important aspect of the deal also noted by the firm to BestMNO is that DISH only has the right to use the Ting Mobile brand name for a period of two years. An explanation for this was not given and leaves the door open for interpretation. It's possible a getaway door was left open so if either company is unhappy with the outcome of the deal they can easily exit it.
It may be possible this is strictly a temporary "help each other out" deal for both companies. Since DISH intends to become the nation's 4th largest wireless carrier down the road it will have to develop its own mobile software platform to serve its customers. Until it does, it is going to use the platform developed by Tucows. Tucows may benefit from such a relationship by using DISH to further test its MSE platform as it prepares to launch it globally. DISH may be getting a deal on the rate it's paying to use the MSE platform, and everything announced today may have been required by Tucows in order for DISH to get that deal. Perhaps DISH and Tucows believe it will take at least two years to adequately develop their mobile software platforms for their customer bases. And at the end of the two years, the Ting Mobile brand and its associated subscribers will revert back to Tucows.
Update: Thanks to a reader tip, BestMVNO has learned that there is a 2-year buyout clause as part of the arrangement. After 2 years, DISH can elect to buy the Ting Mobile brand name.