Amazon is exploring a partnership with Dish Network, the satellite TV company, in a bid to enter the wireless business together, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The potential tie-up could give Amazon access to a whole new range of capabilities, according to the Journal, from selling cellphone service to Prime members to giving Amazon's package delivery drones more connectivity in the air. For Dish, a partnership with one of the world's largest retailers could prove extremely lucrative and give chief executive Charlie Ergen something to do with the massive stockpile of airwaves he's sitting on.
Dish declined to comment on the matter. Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some analysts said a consumer cellphone service was less likely than a partnership to ferry information across networks of smart devices or AI assistants like Amazon Alexa, part of a growing "internet of things."
"It's been clear for years now that building another consumer-grade wireless network is likely to be prohibitively expensive," said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research. "But building a more specialized IoT network with much more limited bandwidth requirements is at least a little more feasible."
Ergen and Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos have grown increasingly close over the past year as they've discussed common interests in space and robotics, the Journal said. Bezos manages a separate space exploration company, Blue Origin.
Ergen, a billionaire media mogul, has been described as a potential kingmaker in a flurry of deals that analysts say could be announced in the coming months. With tens of billions of dollars' worth of spectrum under his company's control, Ergen has the potential to make or break the wireless aspirations of numerous companies. That includes those in the traditional telecom and cable industries, of course, but now, according to the Journal, also those in the internet market.
As more Americans shift to mobile internet and to smart, Web-connected appliances for everyday tasks, companies in Silicon Valley have begun casting their gaze toward wireless technology, as well. Even Alphabet, whose Google Fiber unit seeks to provide an alternative to firms such as Comcast and Verizon, has shifted from laying physical broadband cables in favor of exploring a high-speed wireless internet service.
So in the grand scheme of things, it makes sense that Amazon, with its expansive mission to create an online marketplace for almost anything, may be thinking about wireless connectivity, too.
"Given its scale and ambitions, Amazon has the luxury of not needing a detailed blueprint for a Dish deal to make a lot of sense," said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Cowen & Co.