Dish to test Qualcomm’s 5G RAN platforms

Dish Network announced it will work with Qualcomm on its efforts to build an O-RAN-compliant 5G network, with plans to use the chipmaker’s 5G RAN platforms through Dish’s network vendors and device partners.   

On Wednesday, the companies said they would test open and virtualized radio access network (RAN) 5G products that contain Qualcomm’s new 5G RAN semiconductor platforms to help accelerate Dish’s wireless network greenfield build. After this story originally published, Marc Rouanne, Dish executive vice president and chief network officer clarified to FierceWireless via emailed responses that the announcement signifies Dish may utilize the Qualcomm 5G RAN platforms, but has options. More on that here

Last week, Dish pushed back the timeline for when it expects to have a major 5G market running, which is now anticipated by the third quarter of 2021, instead of the end of the year. During third-quarter earnings, executives said the nationwide standalone 5G network deployment is on track, and noted Dish is waiting on open RAN radios from Fujitsu.

RELATED: Dish won’t have major 5G market up and running until Q3 of 2021

Fujitsu units are expected to arrive at scale later next year, and Dish is also working with other, yet to be disclosed radio vendors.

In today’s announcement, Dish said that the Qualcomm platforms are designed to allow emerging network vendors to speed up the deployment and commercialization of vRAN and interoperable networks.  

Qualcomm just revealed additions to its small cell chipset portfolio last month, with 5G RAN platforms to power a full range of infrastructure deployments, from macro to micro cells, across a variety of spectrum bands. Notably, they are designed to support virtualized and OpenRAN architectures.

“By further expanding its portfolio of 5G infrastructure solutions to include O-RAN specifications that are compliant with DISH’s open architecture and implementation, Qualcomm Technologies will enable greater flexibility in the deployment of our 5G vRAN equipment,” said Marc Rouanne, EVP and chief network officer of Dish, in a statement. “With this move, Qualcomm Technologies will also enrich a diverse ecosystem of RAN applications by delivering data insights natively through the future chipset family. These insights are the foundation of our data-centric and fully-automated network architecture.”

Qualcomm had said it anticipated delivery of engineering samples of its new 5G RAN portfolio to select network vendors in the first half of 2022.

RELATED: Qualcomm bolsters 5G infrastructure play with vRAN platform

“We are excited about working with DISH to accelerate their strategy to bring flexible, scalable, and interoperable 5G deployments to a more competitive North American market,” said Durga Malladi, SVP and general manager, 4G/5G, Qualcomm, in a statement. “With our vast 5G portfolio, from smartphone to infrastructure, we are committed to supporting DISH’s network vendors and device partners to bring new capabilities to life, with standalone 5G and Vo5G across all DISH spectrum bands.”

Work with Qualcomm follows a number of earlier partner announcements from Dish. Recently that includes Intel technology, with Dish tapping Intel’s Xeon Scalable Processor, Ethernet 800 Series network adapter, vRAN Dedicated Accelerator ACC100 and Intel’s FlexRAN software reference architecture.

VMware is providing its telco platform. 5G network functions from different software vendors including Mavenir and Altiostar will run on top of the VMware telco cloud. Dish picked Nokia for its 5G standalone core.

Under commitments to the FCC, Dish’s 5G network needs to cover 20% of the U.S. population by mid-June 2022, and at least 50% by mid-2023 if it wants to be able to push broader coverage deadlines back. 

Article updated to reflect 50% coverage target by mid-2023. Headline changed to 'test' instead of 'use' to reflect that the announcement is that Dish may utilize Qualcomm's 5G RAN platforms.