Dish names Mavenir as first vendor for 5G network build

Dish Network on Thursday named the first vendor for its planned virtualized 5G network build, selecting Mavenir to supply OpenRAN software for the new nationwide wireless network.

The announcement signals Dish is moving forward with plans to become the country’s fourth nationwide facilities-based wireless carrier, building its own standalone 5G network. In deals related to the recently closed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, Dish is set to take over the Boost Mobile prepaid business and committed to creating its own 5G network capable of reaching 70% of the U.S. population by 2023.

With economic upheaval and uncertainty from the COVID-19 crisis, some analysts have questioned if that’s still feasible. Dish recently cut jobs at its pay TV business in the face of coronavirus impacts.

The work with Mavenir is underway, according to a Dish spokesperson. As to whether Dish is still on track to meet its buildout commitment deadlines or expects coronavirus-related delays, the spokesperson said Dish expects to address those questions on its upcoming earnings call in May. 

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Dish has pegged the price tag of its network build at $10 billion, a figure analysts have been skeptical as too low, but that Chairman Charlie Ergen previously defended as possible thanks to automation and a cloud-native, software-focused network approach he said lowers construction and operation costs.

Under the new multi-year agreement with Mavenir, the Richardson, Texas-based software provider will deliver cloud-native OpenRAN software for Dish, aligning with its vision of building an open, standalone 5G network. Its plan is similar to that of Rakuten’s recent greenfield build of a virtualized 4G network in Japan. Mavenir was also a vendor for Rakuten’s wireless network.

"The open and intelligent architecture of our greenfield network will give us the ability to source a diverse technology ecosystem, including U.S.-based solution providers," said Marc Rouanne, Dish's chief network officer, in a statement. "Mavenir will help us lay the foundation for an innovative software-defined network with the flexibility, intelligence and scalability to deliver applications that will redefine the U.S. wireless industry."

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Since last summer, Dish issued five RFI/RFPs for its wireless network, including two in January, but Mavenir is the first publicly announced vendor. Mavenir, already an established player in the core network space, has been working to make a name for itself on the radio access network (RAN) side and is a vocal champion of open RAN architectures built on open interface specifications.

Mavenir already counts Telefonica and Vodafone as customers of its 4G/5G OpenRAN software. On Thursday the vendor announced India’s Vodafone Idea deployed Mavenir’s open RAN solutions for 4G and the telecom operator plans to expand TDD and Massive MIMO deployments in 2020.

"We are honored to be partnering with DISH Network and being recognized for our innovation and leadership in developing and delivering innovative solutions," said Pardeep Kohli, president and CEO of Mavenir, in a statement. "Working with DISH, we will be supporting the deployment of the world's largest cloud-native OpenRAN 5G network."

Updated with response from Dish.