Dish’s Mayo talks 2021 buildout goals

Dave Mayo, Dish Network’s EVP of network development, outlined the company’s 2021 buildout goals, and discussed some of the steps Dish is taking to create a startup business mentality for its 5G network even though it is a mature company with a successful legacy direct broadcast satellite (DBS) business.

Mayo, who spoke last week at Connect (X), the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s annual event that was held in Orlando, Florida, outlined key areas of focus for his team for 2021. No. 1 on the list is working closely with its open radio access network (open RAN) vendors Mavenir Systems and Altiostar to make sure that their open RAN solutions are integrated with Nokia’s virtualized core network.

Mayo said that it is important for Dish to use open RAN because by disaggregating the software that controls the radios from the physical radio itself, the operator will be able to have more control over the features and functionality of its network. “This is a great opportunity to do something very different from the other guys,” Mayo said.

He also jokingly referred to Ericsson and Nokia as the “Scandinavian mafia” because he said that in his prior work with T-Mobile, the operator was always pushing the two vendors to deliver new radio functions and features that would give it better capacity and the vendors never moved quickly enough. “I think this architecture will give us the ability to be proactive and bring those features to market.”

Other priorities for Dish include building a backlog of permits so that the company can continuously construct its network without having delays due to permitting issues. Mayo added that collocation applications were prioritized for markets with high collocation rates so that Dish could focus on building a complete market. And he noted that one advantage Dish has to building a greenfield network today is that there are now a large number of towers that are ready for collocation. In the past, building coverage in a market would take a long time because towers had to be built. Today, that doesn’t happen very often because over the years U.S. many more tower sites were constructed to handle the additional capacity that is needed today. 

Dish is also focused on ramping up its supply chain for all the things that it needs to construct its network, including transport. Mayo added that so far the company hasn’t experienced many issues with its supply chain and he is cautiously optimistic that it won’t have any major problems.

Interestingly, Dish is building its own cabinets to house its equipment. Mayo said that the company has retrofitted some of Dish’s warehouses where the company handled set-top box refurbishment and now those employees are building cabinets for the company’s wireless gear.

Another big priority for Dish is working through its integration with Amazon Web Services (AWS). In April, Dish announced that it would use Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to host its RAN and mobile core for both public and private 5G networks. This means that Dish will use AWS public cloud resources in AWS Regions and AWS Local Zones and private deployments of AWS Outposts in Dish’s network locations and on customer premises for its 5G network. Mayo said that the company is working closely with AWS on integrating its platforms and building connectivity. To that end, the company announced earlier this week that Spirent Communications will provide the autonomous testing and validation of Dish’s 5G core network and that includes interoperability testing in a public cloud environment and with AWS.

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Finally, the company is also razor-focused on its Las Vegas market where it will begin beta testing in the fourth quarter. Mayo said that he calls the market the “Las Vegas Lab” and said that the company is hoping to get that beta test started in a few weeks.

Interestingly, Mayo had very high praise for NexSys-One, the vendor the company is using to help it manage all of its deployment. Mayo called it NexSys-One's cloud-based platform a "project management tool” and said that the software toolset was “unlike anything I’ve seen.”