Today’s Dish Network Q1 earnings call took an unexpected turn in Whoville when Chairman Charlie Ergen compared T-Mobile to the Grinch. The comparison emerged as we discussed “Uncarrier’s” decision to proceed with the discontinuation of CDMA, a move that could result in millions of Dish’s Boost Mobile customers losing service early next year. Ergen made no secret of what he thinks about the move: “They have become the Grinch.” He added, “The Uncarrier has become the indifferent carrier.”
Dish Network acquired Boost as a prerequisite for the Sprint / T-Mobile merger with the intention of positioning Dish to take Sprint’s place as the US’s fourth wireless provider. A year later, the company is facing a major setback after T-Mobile’s announcement that it plans to shut down the CDMA network that many Boost customers use early next year.
Dish has issued statements warning that the consequences for his business would be dire, and asked recently the California Public Utilities Commission is reopening its investigation into the merger. The company’s wireless operations don’t look bright, even without considering the impending shutdown; it continued to lose subscribers with a net drop of 161,000 last quarter, which is about half of the 363,000 it lost in the previous quarter.
Ergen had previously expressed disappointment with the timing of the shutdown, calling it anti-competitive, but he took this morning’s investor talk with his Grinch metaphor, describing T-Mobile’s move as “ heartless. ” But he puts a hopeful spin on the metaphor, noting that the Grinch eventually returned all the toys he took from the Whos, and his heart grew three bars that day. Ergen says the comparison was inspired by recently reading the book to his granddaughter, and that instead of the character’s signature green color, he “kept seeing a magenta Grinch.”