Dish to launch 5G network in Las Vegas this year

Dish Network on Wednesday revealed Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred cloud provider for 5G, with Las Vegas teed up as the first market for network deployment later this year.

AWS cloud infrastructure is set to play a significant role in Dish’s standalone 5G network, which utilizes an open radio access network (open RAN) approach. The cloud player is going to host RAN and mobile core elements, for both public and private 5G networks.

According to a Dish spokesperson, the third-quarter launch in Las Vegas is for network deployment of the greenfield 5G build, rather than the start of offering commercial 5G services. Dish had already pointed to a Q3 timeline, but had only hinted at the location as an NFL city

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To meet buildout deadlines, Dish’s new cloud-native 5G network needs to cover 20% of the U.S. population by June 2022, and 70% by June 2023.

As for AWS, Dish said it will connect all of its hardware and network management resources through AWS, helping to scale and provide on-demand network responsiveness for wireless users.

Among other aspects, AWS is going to support Dish’s Operation and Business Support Systems (OSS and BSS), for provisioning and operating customers’ 5G workloads. Dish also plans to leverage AWS to tailor and automate deployment of 5G network slices. Edge compute infrastructure, including AWS Local Zones and Outposts, are going support real-time workloads and data processing.

Investment analysts were pleased with the news. New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin noted that a cloud partner “was the last big piece of Dish’s network plan that we have been waiting on.”

In a Wednesday note to investors, he categorized the agreement as “a ‘foot-in-the-door” with a critical partner and said it “provides strong validation of the opportunity ahead for Dish.”

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Part of the firm’s basis is that Dish will have a unit cost advantage compared to the major wireless incumbents, which include AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.  

Raymond James’ analysts pointed to the opportunity of monetizing network slicing – a path Dish has had its eye on.  

“We view the relationship with Amazon as a major positive for Dish, as network slicing and enterprise business cases provide an important means to monetize Dish’s 5G network,” wrote the firm in a Wednesday brief. “And we believe Dish will more heavily focus on enterprise vs. traditional consumer retail wireless.”

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In the announcement Dish called out IoT devices like robots, factory equipment, and other physical sensors (along with smartphones and wearables) as targets for its 5G network that would connect to AWS to offload compute, analytics, and related workloads.  

There is also more to the Dish and AWS partnership than pure cloud vendor.

New Street’s Chaplin noted that before today Dish had yet to secure a commercial partner, and that Amazon spent 18 months working on the agreement.

“Amazon represents the first commercial partners for Dish, which will undoubtedly help them scale up usage across their network as they market new products and services to consumers and enterprises,” wrote Chaplin.

The nature of the products and services isn’t clear yet, and Dish declined to share additional details at this time.

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As noted by Raymond James, during fourth quarter earnings Dish EVP Corporate Development Tom Cullen said “we clearly expect a cloud-partner to bring a go-to-market component to the relationship,” according to a transcript.   

Dish has already lined up a long roster of vendors for its O-RAN 5G network, including many smaller and cloud-native players. As the company deploys the network, Dish said it’s partnering exclusively with suppliers that offer cloud-native tech, to bring together on AWS.  

“As a new carrier, leveraging AWS and its extensive network of partners enables us to differentiate ourselves by operating our 5G network with a high degree of automation, utilizing the talent of AWS-trained developers and helping our customers bring new 5G applications to market faster than ever before,” said Dish Chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen in a statement