Dish Network announced two more vendors for its planned nationwide 5G network: Fujitsu and Altiostar. They will join Mavenir in supplying 5G software and hardware to the satellite TV company.
Dish would not provide the financial terms of its vendor agreements.
Importantly, Fujitsu will supply the physical radio hardware that will broadcast 5G signals from atop Dish's cell towers around the US. Dish said in a release that it will use Fujitsu's lowband Tri-Band radio unit (supporting spectrum bands n71, n26 and n29) and midband Dual-Band radio unit (supporting spectrum bands n70 and n66), both of which adhere to open RAN design principles. Dish added that the radios would support passive MIMO.
Open RAN technology promises to decouple software from hardware, allowing network operators to reduce costs by using standardized hardware running software from a variety of vendors.
Dish said Fujitsu will integrate its radios and antennas, and will manage hardware validation between vendors, including Altiostar and Mavenir.
Analyst Daryl Schoolar of Omdia, a sister company of Light Reading, estimated that Fujitsu's radios could account for between 45% and 75% of the cost of each of Dish's basestations (other costs would include the tower, installation expenses, software and power, for example). Scholar explained that the specific percentage would depend on the exact technologies Fujitsu supports in its products.
Japanese radios for Dish
Although Dish executives have said the company would look to use US-based suppliers for its network, Fujitsu is based in Japan, where it builds its products, and it primarily supplies 4G and 5G hardware to Japanese wireless network operators. Indeed, Omdia's Schoolar estimated Fujitsu scored $125 million in revenues in the first quarter of this year from sales of its 5G equipment, mostly to Japanese operators, up from the $71 million in revenues it earned in 2019 on sales of 5G equipment. The figures put Fujitsu ahead of Japanese equipment vendor rival NEC but far behind behemoths like Sweden's Ericsson.
"As far as I know, this is their first major international win in terms of basestations," Schoolar said of Fujitsu's announcement with Dish. He said the Japanese company has been working for years to expand its sales outside of Japan.
Dish's selection of a Japanese radio vendor for its network comes as little surprise. The Washington Post recently reported that there are few open RAN radio suppliers in the world. The publication listed Korea's KMW and Hong Kong's Comba Telecom as potential suppliers, adding that NewEdge Signal Solutions in Massachusetts and AceAxis in the UK are also working on products.
Analyst Chris Nicoll with ACG Research noted that Dish's selection of Fujitsu and Altiostar indicates that there aren't yet many vendor options in the open RAN arena. "If the open RAN ecosystem is so competitive, where are the other BBU [baseband unit] vendors other than Altiostar? Seems like the open RAN ecosystem has one BBU vendor and the legacy radio vendors (Airspan, NEC, Nokia, now Fujitsu) as the major players," he noted to Light Reading.
Dish confirmed to Light Reading that its vendor contracts are not exclusive, and its use of open RAN technology will allow it to mix and match vendors and select the best vendor for specific scenarios.
Altiostar and Mavenir
As for Altiostar, the company confirmed to Light Reading that it will play the same role in Dish's network as it plays in Rakuten's network in Japan. Rakuten holds a majority stake in Altiostar, and the vendor is Rakuten's sole software supplier for managing Rakuten's 4G and 5G radios.
As a result, Mavenir and Altiostar will play similar radio-management roles in Dish's network. An Altiostar spokesperson told Light Reading that both Altiostar and Mavenir will provide 5G open RAN software to Dish, and that Altiostar's offering is "cloud-native providing significant scalability and service agility capabilities."
And, like Mavenir, Altiostar touted its status as an American 5G supplier. "As a US company, we are proud to contribute our leading open vRAN technology innovation to Dish, and work with the fast growing O-RAN ecosystem to accelerate 5G leadership in the US," Ashraf Dahod, CEO of Altiostar, said in Dish's release.
Dish's 5G vendor announcement Tuesday comes just a day ahead of when it is scheduled to close its $1.4 billion acquisition of roughly 10 million Boost Mobile-branded prepaid customers from T-Mobile. The transaction – the terms of which could change – would mark Dish's official entry into the US wireless industry, first as a T-Mobile MVNO and, potentially, later as a 5G network operator.
Based on its deal last year with T-Mobile and the US Department of Justice, Dish is on the hook to cover 20% of the US population by June 2022 with 5G and 70% of the population starting in June 2023.