Mobile World Congress

How Dish's cloud journey has already reshaped its business

Dish Wireless might still be months away from its 5G launch, but that isn't stopping chief network officer Marc Rouanne from talking about the benefits of going cloud-native.

"It's Kubernetes all the way down to the towers," he told an MWC audience. "We're not buying anything but software from the telco industry – it's pure microservice everywhere."

He says that the biggest driver of the shift was agility. "As a future telco we felt frustrated that the cloud guys had a speed of innovation that was just killing us."

The deployment so far, in partnership with Nokia, Mavenir and AWS, has already yielded lessons in how the new architecture can drastically change a telco's operations and business.

The Dish Wireless headquarters building in Littleton, Colorado. 
 (Source: Dish)
The Dish Wireless headquarters building in Littleton, Colorado.
(Source: Dish)

One is access to talent. Rouanne says his own tech team is fewer than 20 people, but he has hundreds of AWS engineers on-tap designing and building his network.

"There's no way we can build the talent pool that can replicate what these guys do. We are so small in the ecosystem, we're nobody. [Instead] the ecosystem is coming to us."

Another is that Dish no longer has a physical test lab, which is essential for legacy telcos to test out new kits.

"We don't have that any more. We just have virtual private instances that we can spin off in hours."

The more bugs, the better

Now, one of the key metrics for software is how many bugs have been discovered.

"The more bugs the happier I am because it means they have the speed. … [We're always asking] 'how many bugs did you find today?'"

But Rouanne believes that the biggest innovation isn't the technology but the business model.

"I don't like to talk about our network. Because for me we don't have a network to sell. We have services and we want to give the keys to enterprises.

"If they want to tap into our resources with their own policy manager from somebody else, fine. If they want to do their own subscriber and SIM card management outside of Dish, fine. Tell us what you want and we can help you.

"But it is your network, not ours. It will be populated with your data and your insight."

He's also hoping that Dish will enter the much more accessible cloud developer ecosystem.

"In the telco world it's so hard, nobody can get in. We want people to be able to do an application or complete a new network across the US in one push. That's what we're rehearsing right now."

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Cloud-native wireless may not have proven itself commercially yet, but it's winning plenty of business.

AWS CEO Adam Selipsky told a separate MWC event that the firm had struck 5G cloud deals with Swisscom, Dish, Telia, Telenor, Viva Telefonica and NTT DoCoMo, and was deploying AWS Wavelength with Verizon, Bell Canada, SK Telecom and KDDI.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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