Top Boost Mobile Exec Abruptly Departs as Dish Touts Coverage of 200 Million Americans

 Michael Kelly.
Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly, head of Dish Network’s troubled mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) efforts, will step down at the end of the month after about ten months on the job. Kelly was executive VP and head of Dish’s retail cellular division, which included Boost Mobile, Boost Infinite and Gen Mobile. CEO Hamid Akhavan will take over day-to-day operations for the retail wireless sector while the company hunts for a successor.

His abrupt departure comes just as Dish announced that its Boost Wireless Network is now covering more than 200 million Americans nationwide with 5G voice or Voice over New Radio (VoNR).

This is actually Kelly’s second outing with Dish. He first joined the company in 2000 as an aqui-hire when Dish bought his Kelly Broadcasting Systems. When Dish acquired Blockbuster’s assets at a bankruptcy auction in 2011 for about $320 million, Kelly was appointed president of the troubled video rental business. In 2013, Dish decided to shutter all remaining Blockbuster rental outlets and in 2015, Kelly retired from the company.

He was lured back last April to lead Dish’s wireless efforts.

When Dish acquired the Boost brand from T-Mobile for $1.4 billion in 2019, Boost had about 9 million subscribers. At the time, Dish also pledged to pay $3.6 billion over three years to buy 800 Megahertz wireless spectrum from T-Mobile-Sprint. As of Dish’s November Q3 report, Boost’s subscriber rolls had shrunk to 7.5 million.

Also read: As Dish Reportedly Grows ‘Desperate’ to Raise Cash to Build Its 5G Network, the ‘B Word’ Increasingly Gets Thrown Around

Dish’s new corporate parent EchoStar is struggling to a refinance the massive debts incurred by Charlie Ergen’s quixotic quest to build a nationwide 5G cellular phone and data network from scratch to compete with the big three incumbents – AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Dish has reportedly spent roughly $6 billion just to build its new 5G network.

What’s changed since Ergen began this epic quest over a decade ago to transform Dish from a satellite pay TV service into the nation’s fourth wireless carrier is that the mobile industry has rapidly become a zero-sum game where there are few untapped customers left in the market and subscriber growth can only come at the expense of a competitor, leading to cut-throat competition. With companies bundling up discounted streaming services to entice customers and practically giving away phones, just about anyone who wants a mobile phone can get one. Even the pay-as-you-go market is saturated with offerings.