Dish Network said it will run its 5G network functions inside of the VMware Telco Cloud via a new multi-year agreement between the two companies. Dish officials explained that the move will allow the company to shift its computing needs across public and private clouds, as necessary, while maintaining a cohesive and unified software operation running on top of VMware's platform.
VMware will also work as a sort of gatekeeper for the software running inside of Dish's network. The companies explained that they will work together to test and certify vendors' network functions as they are installed in Dish's network, such as those from other Dish vendors like Mavenir and Altiostar.
The news further firms up Dish's 5G network design with an official cloud component ahead of the actual physical construction of the company's promised 5G network.
"We look at this solution as a really important part of our platform," Stephen Bye, Dish's EVP and chief commercial officer, told Light Reading about the company's VMware deal. Bye declined to provide the financial details of the deal, or to say how many employees Dish might devote to the operation.
Interestingly, Bye said Dish has no concerns about running its network functions on public clouds. "We see it as really putting the workload where it makes sense," he explained.
Other operators, such as AT&T, have taken a cautious approach to moving critical network functions onto public clouds, like those run by Amazon or Microsoft.
Shekar Ayyar, VMware's EVP and general manager of its Telco and Edge Cloud Business Unit, said that VMware will use Kubernetes as the scaffolding to hold network functions inside of Dish's network. He said Kubernetes has evolved into the industry's de facto standard for such operations.
And what of Dish's edge computing strategy? Bye explained that VMware's cloud will allow Dish to run its network functions in whatever location is best, based on the type of services Dish wants to provide. "We can move the workload from the edge to the core," he said. "We let the business dictate, and the customers dictate, where we move that edge to."
And VMware joins Fujisu, Mavenir and Altiostar as a supplier to Dish. Fujitsu will supply the physical radio hardware that will broadcast 5G signals from atop Dish's cell towers, while Mavenir and Altiostar will provide the management software for those radios.
Bye declined to offer any further details on the pacing and progress of Dish's 5G network rollout. Tower officials, analysts and others generally expect Dish to embark on its 5G network buildout in earnest next year – the buildout will require Dish technicians to hang 5G broadcasting equipment on potentially tens of thousands of cell towers around the country. The company has targeted around $10 billion for the effort.
Dish has also hinted at plans to purchase additional components ahead of its physical network buildout, including the activation of a 5G core.
Dish's 5G network architect, Marc Rouanne, told Light Reading recently that the company is angling to construct a state-of-the-art network built on open RAN and cloud-native technologies.