Dish looks to serve up secure 5G slicing with Nokia software

Dish Network plans to use Nokia software to deliver secure so-called network “slices” for enterprise and wholesale customers on its forthcoming 5G network.

The Finnish telecom equipment vendor will supply its NetGuard Security suite, which Dish said will be used for security services through slice-specific Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Network slicing is a technique that promises to carve out or partition “slices” of the network for different customers or enterprises, customizing each to meet their respective requirements (like latency or bandwidth) based on the specific use case or application. With Nokia, Dish said each slice can securely extend across the network – from the device through the radio, access, transport and core networks – to each application server in an isolated way.

The Nokia NetGuard suite is getting deployed for security orchestration, automation and response. Resolving threats in different slices in a more automated way is part of the aim, with less need for manual intervention by Dish.

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5G network slices will be provisioned for wholesale and enterprise customers, which are both part of the picture that Dish leadership envisions for its greenfield 5G network. Under Federal Communications Commission buildout deadlines, the network needs to cover 20% of the U.S. population by June 2022 and 70% one year later.

Speaking earlier this year on Dish’s fourth quarter earnings call, Chairman Charlie Ergen responded to questions about business plans for enterprise versus consumer network users.

“I think a lot of analysts look at how many handsets you are going to have…but your question is well taken in the sense that a part of our business will be the enterprise business, that is a fairly nascent business today and we will be on the leading edge of that as it grows,” Ergen said, according to a transcript.  

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He also pointed to the flexibility of Dish’s software-driven open radio access network (open RAN) approach and how alongside cloud capabilities it enables automated network slicing, with techniques like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Network slicing has been seen as a way to help operators drive new revenue with the introduction of new business models, including for enterprise.

In the announcement, Dish network chief Marc Rouanne cited network slicing as “a key differentiator of Dish’s 5G network,” adding “as we deliver these capabilities to our customers, we will provide a new level of security for their services.”  

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On the security front Dish also just added Palo Alto Networks to its supplier list, with plans to use its cloud-native security platform including firewalls.

For 5G network slicing, operators need a standalone (SA) 5G core and Nokia is already supplying software for Dish’s SA 5G core. Most early 5G deployments have been in non-standalone (NSA) mode, which still relies on LTE. In the U.S. only T-Mobile has launched a nationwide 5G SA network, while Verizon and AT&T still have efforts in the works. Dish is starting from the ground up with its 5G build and will have an SA 5G network from the get-go instead of needing to transition.

Nokia’s VP of strategy and technology in North America David Eckard recently told Fierce he believed mobile operators will be able to offer “a handful” of network slices, but acknowledged it depends on the use cases and amount of capacity a network has.