DISH Wireless’s 5G Network Stack Gives the Industry a Glimpse into the Future of Telecoms Networks

Author: Dimitris Mavrakis

DISH’s 5G Network Deployment Plans    

DISH Wireless has been in the forefront of the news for years now, being one of the few greenfield 5G network operators entering saturated markets and, at the same time, radically reshaping how mobile networks are being designed, dimensioned, and deployed. Indeed, DISH Wireless has chosen Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host a large part of its network and the hyperscaler has written extensive articles highlighting how the networking stack has been designed from the ground up to combine both AWS infrastructure and servers deployed in the new network. Moreover, DISH Wireless is a strong supporter of Open RAN and aims to use open interfaces, disaggregated hardware, cloud-native, and software throughout its network.

All of these are radical new concepts being introduced in 5G network design, but the most important aspect is how DISH Wireless is designing its network from both strategic and commercial perspectives.

DISH Wireless Network Layers

According to ABI Research’s understanding, DISH Wireless aims to deploy its network in three main layers to take advantage of current technology market trends and to maximize its opportunities in the enterprise market. These three main layers are:

  1. The first layer is its infrastructure, where servers are deployed throughout the network to act as distributed data centers that enable 5G base stations. These servers will also act as edge data centers that can power a variety of consumer and enterprise applications. According to ABI Research’s understanding, Dell is providing these servers that will run a variety of software, including VMware. These data centers will be deployed in the DISH Wireless network and are called Passthrough Edge Data Centers (PEDC) that connect to Breakout Edge Data Centers (BEDCs) that are hosted in the AWS network.
    1. Infrastructure vendors that will enable the telecommunication part of DISH’s network include Nokia, Mavenir, and Oracle.
  2. The second layer is the platform, where Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and common orchestration will allow enterprises and other clients to take advantage of the flexibility offered in the first layer to create new types of applications. This is like the hyperscaler deployment model, where infrastructure and networks are being designed as platforms to be consumed both internally and externally. Confluent Kafka is a key tool for enabling this layer and DISH Wireless is planning to expose key parts of its network through APIs, including policy elements, such as the Policy Control Function (PCF).
  3. The third layer is designed as a super-cloud that will include an application marketplace for both consumers and enterprises. This will be the key competitive differentiator that will set DISH Wireless apart from the competition. Furthermore, it is the most complex, as it requires the flexibility and scalability of the first two layers to work.

According to ABI Research, these three layers are the most radical concepts DISH Wireless is introducing, and much more impactful than its support for Open RAN or its partnership with AWS. This will likely reshape the market and how 5G networks are being built.

DISH Has Found the 5G Killer Application

A multiple business layer approach to deploying a telecoms network is not new; Telefónica, for example, has long been discussing its four network platforms, which include physical assets, Information Technology (IT) systems, its products and services, and its cognitive platform for orchestrating all underlying layers. However, most—if not all—are overlaid on top of existing networks and act as abstraction layers for existing infrastructure, systems, or business practices. On the other hand, DISH’s three layers are a completely disruptive approach that considers the network as a platform, with every single layer based on cutting-edge technologies and concepts, rather than masking existing systems with a new name. For example, DISH Wireless’s infrastructure layer is based on cloud-native technologies, its platform layer is based on Kafka, and the application marketplace is a radical concept itself.

The success of DISH Wireless is very likely, although it will be the result of monumental effort shared between AWS, its telecoms suppliers, and the mobile operator itself. When DISH Wireless succeeds in bringing its network into the large-scale market (according to ABI Research estimates, this will take place when the greenfield operator deploys 15,000 5G base stations), it will offer services and network capabilities that no other operator in the United States will be able to match. This will likely trigger market-wide effects, but DISH Wireless now has the foundation to become the leading operator for 5G enterprise applications. It will likely take years for these market effects to solidify and cause seismic shifts in the industry, but this new approach and deployment is something to pay close attention to as a glimpse into the future of telecoms networks.