Dish teams up with Cisco to tackle enterprise 5G

Dish this week announced Cisco as its latest vendor, as the nascent mobile operator looks to quickly deliver cloud-based enterprise services through its 5G network.

The new agreement with Cisco has the pair teaming up on a few different fronts, including go-to-market strategy for private 5G in the enterprise, as well as intelligent network transport, virtual routing, and DevOps.

For the 5G network Cisco is providing cloud networking and automation software, along with a mix of customer experience-focused lifecycle services.

“Cisco and Dish are disrupting the mobile and enterprise markets by launching cloud-powered 5G services in record time through innovative technologies, fostering new application development and improving the overall customer experience,” said Chuck Robbins, chairman and CEO at Cisco, in a statement. “Together, we look forward to helping businesses across industries transform their networks to support the evolution of hybrid work models, the transition to Network as a Service (NaaS) offers, and the expansion into new markets including IoT.”

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In building out a new 5G standalone (SA) network using open RAN and cloud-native architecture, Dish has often highlighted plans to quickly spin up network slicing features and offer customized virtual slices to enterprise that deliver requirements of different industry verticals.

Dish said the arrangement with Cisco was designed with businesses in mind “to capitalize on Dish’s 5G network and application infrastructure to support new hybrid work models.”

The companies plan to invest in joint go-to-market plans for private 5G services for enterprise, with Dish participating in Cisco’s Reseller and Managed Services Program.

On the private 5G side, Cisco has also been a key contributor to the DoD for private network projects with the vendor’s open, cloud-native 5G architecture.  

Dish is tapping automated Cisco XRv9K virtualized routers that will run on AWS, as well as virtual Cell Site Routers located at towers. It’s a fully containerized virtual routing set up with a purpose-built data plane, which Dish says will help unlock full benefits of cloud-native networking.

RELATED: Cisco’s early bet on RAN virtualization propels Altiostar

Transport is also on the table. Cisco is going to play a role in the planning, design, and delivery of a cloud-based transport network that can self-heal and self-optimize, featuring closed-loop automation for network slicing in the transport portion.  The vendor is providing IOS-XR operating system for 5G, backhaul and fronthaul transport with NCS routers and segment routing for automated traffic management and network slicing. Dish will use Nexus 9000 routers from Cisco with Application Centric Infrastructure fabric for data center switching and Cisco’s Crosswork Network Controller for the transport domain, including automated service provisioning and assurance.

Additionally, Cisco is going to help build out an automation-focused DevOps organization. Dish said the main outcomes are Continuous Integration Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) testing and zero-touch onboarding. Faster and constant software integration and onboarding will help Dish speed up the time from development into the pre-production phases and moving from testing directly to production.

RELATED: Dish network chief talks 5G service-based architecture

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen in a statement said that work with Cisco is central to Dish’s goal of a top-tier experience for enterprises.

“Dish has compiled an outstanding roster of partners in the wireless industry, and Cisco is a key player helping us launch a customizable, automated, 5G network optimized for enterprise performance,” Ergen said. “Our ability to continually drive value and enhance capabilities for our customers is a key differentiator for Dish, and positions us to disrupt the industry with more innovation, speed, agility and security.”

Las Vegas is the first beta market for Dish’s 5G network launch, where commercial service is expected sometime in the first quarter of 2022.  Construction also is underway in 42 markets. Under FCC commitments Dish’s build needs 5G to cover 20% of the U.S. population by mid-June and 70% by mid-2023.  

RELATED: Dish’s Mayo talks 2021 buildout goals

It was a qualified bidder in the FCC’s most recent mid-band spectrum auction, where the clock phase just concluded yesterday raising over $21.8 billion in bids for spectrum between 3.45-3.55 GHz.

Winners haven’t been announced, but analysts at New Street Research believe Dish may have spent around $5.25 billion or more. Earlier this week Dish raised that amount in a secured debt offering, with new spectrum licenses one of the target uses for funds.