Littleton officials are tuning into a plan by DISH Network to bring new jobs and a 5G broadband network to town, but the full picture is still a little fuzzy.
A convoluted series of mergers, lawsuits and settlements among telecom giants means DISH Network plans to open headquarters for a new wireless phone network in the Denver area in coming years, and could base many new jobs at its Riverfront property at Bowles Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. The property is currently home to a DISH Network call center.
While DISH plans to create as many as 2,000 jobs in the area, they will be split between Riverfront and properties in the Inverness and Meridian areas, according to a news release.
DISH has not announced specifics about how many of the jobs will be in Littleton, or what the job titles or pay range will be, a spokesman said in an email.
“It sure sounds like this will be good for Littleton and good for DISH,” said Littleton Mayor Jerry Valdes, who said he hadn't heard of the agreement until a reporter called. “Tech jobs attract young and smart people, and this could be a nice companion with some of the other tech firms we have in town.”
The move comes as part of an agreement after the Colorado Attorney General's Office agreed in October to pull out of a multi-state lawsuit opposing a merger of T-Mobile and Sprint that was approved by the U.S. Justice Department in June. As part of the merger, DISH agreed to acquire the other companies' prepaid wireless networks, creating the nation's fourth-largest wireless phone carrier.
Under the terms of the agreement with the attorney general's office, DISH agreed to maintain its new wireless headquarters in Littleton for at least seven years, according to a news release. In addition, DISH will roll out a slew of 5G high-speed broadband services by 2023. DISH faces up to $20 million in fines if it does not meet the terms of the agreement.
A separate agreement with T-Mobile mandates the rollout of 5G services across much of rural Colorado, which the company says will result in a massive increase in internet speeds in previously underserved areas.
The agreement is good news to Littleton City Manager Mark Relph, who said he's had a few brief conversations so far with DISH officials.
“I'm excited not just on the jobs front, but also for what the 5G technology could mean for the city,” Relph said.
The high-speed network could help the city network its traffic lights, so they could be timed to respond to variable traffic flows and help ease congestion, Relph said. Previous plans for such a project have assumed it could only be accomplished with fiber optic cable networks, which are far more expensive, Relph said.
“They're likely going to face a lot of regulatory hurdles, but we're eager to partner with them,” Relph said. “We'll see what sort of expansion they're interested in here.”
DISH also owns a vacant lot across Bowles Ave. from the call center, according to county records. There are currently no listed plans to build on the property.
While DISH has long been one of Littleton's larger employers, Relph characterized the city's relationship with the company as “dormant.”
DISH has long been an economic driver in Littleton, said Jennifer Henninger, the city's community development director.
“They send in people for training,” Henninger said. “They stay at our hotels. A lot of the call center employees frequent the McDonald's across the street, and DISH has told us they'd like more restaurants in the area that cater to people on call center wages.”
Relph said he anticipates more in-depth conversations with DISH representatives in coming months.
“It's time to get together and talk about the future,” Relph said.
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