Dish picks VMware cloud platform for 5G network build

Dish Network named VMware as the latest vendor for its planned 5G network build, using the software provider’s telco cloud platform.

The announcement marks one more piece in place on Dish’s path to becoming a nationwide facilities-based carrier in the U.S. VMware joins Altiostar, Fujitsu, and Mavenir as publicly named partners for Dish’s greenfield wireless network. It plans to deploy a 5G standalone (SA) network using cloud-native, open RAN architecture.

Dish called out the software-defined nature of VMware’s cloud as a strong foundation to support Dish’s 5G partner ecosystem.

The cloud will be built with containers and run Kubernetes. Dish said the latter will allow it to dynamically shift and scale workloads within the cloud based on consumer demand.  

5G network functions from different software vendors will run on top of the VMware telco cloud, including software from Mavenir and Altiostar.  Dish and VMware have tested and onboarded dozens of network functions from multiple suppliers, but isn’t naming additional vendors at this point.

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Using VMware’s platform, Dish can leverage distributed telco, public and private cloud environments, and deliver edge computing capabilities.  Enhanced automation, resiliency, security and flexibility are among some of the benefits Dish cited. In addition to the 5G network, VMware is also supplying certain cloud infrastructure services to support Dish’s IT needs across the larger company.

Dish isn’t disclosing financial terms of the deal.

“VMware software will serve as a powerful foundation for our cloud-native, software-defined 5G network,” said Marc Rouanne, executive vice president and chief network officer for Dish, in a statement. “By bringing together innovations such as the distributed cloud, edge computing and network slicing, this software will help us provide our customers with customizable, secure solutions that will be more cost-effective than legacy, vertically-integrated, hardware-reliant alternatives.”

RELATED: Dish names Mavenir as first vendor for 5G network build

Dish officially entered the mobile retail business on July 1 when the satellite TV provider closed a $1.4 billion deal to acquire Boost Mobile. That transaction was one of the conditions for government approval of T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger, with the promise of Dish entering the market as a fourth competitor. While Dish works to on the network buildout, customers will initially first ride on T-Mobile’s network under a seven-year MVNO agreement.

There has been some skepticism about Dish’s ultimate plans, but the company has taken steps – including now four publicly announced vendors, as well as hiring wireless industry veterans to bolster its mobile network team. That includes former T-Mobile executive Dave Mayo, who just joined in June and is heading up Dish’s wireless buildout and deployment execution as EVP of Network Development.

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Dish picked up 800 MHz spectrum from Sprint as well, but already holds a trove of valuable wireless spectrum and has shown up at recent spectrum auctions. The agreement to become a fourth competitor also meant extensions to FCC buildout requirement deadlines related to certain Dish spectrum licenses. Dish committed to the FCC to offer 5G broadband service to at least at least 70% of the U.S. population by June 2023, among other deadlines.

Work on the build is expected to get started next year, with executives of two tower companies this week both indicating conversations with Dish, though no formal deals mentioned.

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“We are very focused on being a terrific partner with [Dish] and working hard to ensure that they’re able to meet those targets that they’ve set out for themselves over the next couple of years,” said Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle on the tower company’s earnings call yesterday, according to a transcript.

Crown Castle didn’t give guidance on potential impacts from Dish, but plans to provide some view in October of the impact for 2021.

“But we're zeroed in and making sure that we're being responsive to what could be a significant customer over the next few years as they build out a nationwide network,” Brown added.

Similarly, when asked on a Q2 earnings call about when Dish might show up based on the need for more funding to ramp up a network build, American Tower CEO Tom Bartlett said he expects Dish to hit the market next year.  

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The tower REIT won’t include Dish in financial guidance until it has a more formal agreement and understanding of what the demands will be, Bartlett added.

Dish previously pegged the cost of building a new 5G network at $10 billion, though some analysts have suggested it will likely cost much more.  

In May, Dish Chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen indicated funding wasn’t a major concern.