The AWS-DISH partnership is expected to revolutionize the deployment methods of networks, especially as 5G continues to evolve.
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The DISH and AWS Partnership
DISH and Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced a major strategic partnership in April 2021, stating that the new carrier’s 5G network will be deployed in the hyperscale’s cloud infrastructure that will enable DISH’s core, edge, and even radio network. Specifically, DISH will use AWS Outposts and Local Zones to enable edge workloads and will also use AWS cloud infrastructure for its operation support systems (OSS)/business support system (BSS) operations. There are many benefits to this partnership: the companies have announced that DISH can utilize AWS’s expertise in AI/machine learning (ML) to improve its network operations and the AWS marketplace has attracted significant developer interest for business to business (B2B) applications. The companies also state that by using the AWS platform, developers will be able to build 5G applications through a much easier development process, especially for popular consumer areas, such as gaming and AR/VR.
A Tidal Shift for 5G Network Deployments
The AWS-DISH partnership for the carrier’s 5G network deployment is a monumental shift in the industry and has the potential to radically change network deployment plans, especially in markets where hyperscalers have dominant footprints. The public cloud domain is no stranger to telecom networks, and in fact, many hyperscalers are hosting the upper layers (e.g., BSS or marketing-related elements) of their network in AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. On the other hand, most Tier-One mobile operators have opted to deploy their networks in their own infrastructure, which has evolved from proprietary hardware to common data centers. Almost all 5G networks today are deployed in this manner, and the hardware control becomes stronger closest to the radio, where the carrier-grade nature of the network is typically translated to the operator to be deployed, maintained, and upgraded.
In this context, the AWS-DISH partnership is a monumental revolution in the way networks are being deployed. DISH’s 5G radio access network (RAN) will be an Open-RAN based architecture. Centralized units (CU) will be deployed in AWS Local Zones across US and distributed units (DU) will be deployed in AWS Outposts. This means that infrastructure for critical 5G components from 5G Core to RAN would essentially be managed by AWS and will be a logical extension of the rest of the hyperscale cloud. DISH will be able to provision, observe, and secure the network elements as containers from core to edge utilizing AWS’s cloud capabilities and reduce ongoing costs. Although there are no announcements on the commercial relationship between AWS and DISH yet, ABI Research expects that the partnership will follow a model based on subscription or pay-as-you-grow rather than an upfront, CAPEX-based model that the telecoms industry is built with. This could be another monumental revolution, one of which many other mobile operators will seek to follow, despite DISH being a greenfield operator, and essentially dictating the deployment model it will follow without any prior legacy to maintain.
Dish and AWS Will Become the Example to Follow
Although Rakuten has become the industry darling for Open-RAN deployments, DISH will take this a step further and deploy its 5G network in a purely public cloud environment. Bearing in mind that this will be the first deployment of its kind, there will be some teething problems. The way these problems will be overcome will arguably be the most interesting part of this development, especially when AWS uses its public cloud expertise to solve typical telecom problems, using processes and approaches from its hyperscale domain. The telecoms industry was previously discussing the development of virtualized networks, which gradually evolved to cloud-native (containerized) deployments and now, with AWS and DISH, this discussion progresses even further to the public cloud.
Once AWS and DISH launch their initial commercial offering, ABI Research forecasts that many operators will follow and even embrace the deployment type for brownfield networks. If the commercial agreement between AWS and DISH is purely on a subscription-based model, then brownfield operators can potentially deploy without major risk or upfront CAPEX investment. Moreover, AWS’s scalability can allow mobile operators to gradually migrate from their own infrastructure to AWS, rather than deploy using a “waterfall” approach they are accustomed to.
For these reasons and many more, ABI Research expects the AWS-DISH partnership to be a major milestone in the deployment of 5G networks, and perhaps the catalyst to reach the Service Based Architecture (SBA) concept 5G is promised to deliver. This partnership also means that traditional vendor deployment and business models are at risk, and they may also start to redefine their role as system integrators rather than end-to-end network providers. 5G has surely started, but the Open-RAN and public cloud deployments are just starting to give us a glimpse into the future.