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open RAN

Dish inks $1B+ deal with Samsung for 5G radios

Samsung Electronics will provide 5G network equipment to Dish Network, the companies said Tuesday, describing their agreement as a "multi-year contract valued at over $1 billion."

"Samsung Networks' 5G solutions will be deployed in Dish markets across the US, as part of a collaboration beginning this year," a Samsung representative wrote in response to questions from Light Reading.

Samsung also confirmed that it would supply open RAN-compatible networking equipment covering all of Dish's Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum bands: Band 71 (600MHz), Band 29 (700MHz), Band 66 (AWS: 1.7GHz/2.1GHz), Band 70 (AWS-4: 1.7GHz/1.9GHz), Band 48 (CBRS: 3.55GHz-3.7GHz), Band 77 (C-band: 3.7GHz-3.98GHz) and Andromeda (3.45GHz-3.55GHz).

Prior to the announcement, Dish had only been working with two relatively small radio vendors: Taiwan's Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI) and Japan's Fujitsu. The addition of Samsung to Dish's radio vendor lineup puts Dish alongside Verizon and AT&T, which also use Samsung as a 5G equipment vendor.

Dish's Fujitsu radios and JMA antennas sit at the very top of this cell tower. Click here for more information. (Source: Light Reading)
Dish's Fujitsu radios and JMA antennas sit at the very top of this cell tower. Click here for more information.
(Source: Light Reading)

However, there are plenty of unanswered questions in Dish's announcement with Samsung.

Open RAN radios

Samsung boasted that it would supply Dish with its vRAN software and open RAN-compliant radio units, including Massive MIMO radios. "Samsung's vRAN can operate on any commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) server, while still delivering performance on par with traditional hardware-based equipment. With its cloud-native architecture, Dish Wireless' open RAN deployment is based on open interfaces, allowing for multi-vendor interoperability and various deployment scenarios," Samsung said in a release.

But Samsung officials declined to comment specifically on how the company's offerings might connect with equipment and software from other Dish vendors, including Rakuten's Altiostar, Mavenir, JMA Wireless, CommScope, CellMax and KMW. "While we don't comment on specific vendors, a key benefit of Samsung's vRAN solutions are their seamless integration and interoperability in a multi-vendor network environment," the company said.

A key tenet of Dish's open RAN network design is that it allows the company to mix and match vendors. However, company officials have blamed the company's buildout delays on the complexity of that work. "We found that we had to become the system integrator. It wasn't a role that we thought we're going to take on," Dish chief Charlie Ergen said in February.

Another unanswered question: When and how Samsung's radios might support all of Dish's spectrum bands. For example, AT&T has said that it's moving forward this year with a dual-radio deployment of its C-band and Andromeda spectrum because single, integrated radios are not yet available.

Also, Samsung declined to say how many radios it might supply to Dish. In January, the financial analysts at Raymond James estimated that Dish had installed its 5G radios atop around 1,000 cell towers. That number is expected to reach roughly 15,000 cell sites this year, and could grow to 40,000 cell sites in the years to come if Dish continues its 5G buildout.

Dish phones

Another part of Dish's new agreement with Samsung covers phones. However, a Samsung representative said that none of the $1 billion in the companies' contract is allocated to phones, only radios.

Nonetheless, Dish has been testing its network using the Samsung Galaxy S22, and the operator said it would "continue using Samsung phones as a reference platform throughout the network deployment process."

"We are excited to continue to work together to bring Samsung's powerful mobile products and services, which are compatible with the Dish network, to more customers," Samsung's Jude Buckley, EVP of the company's mobile business, said in a release.

Samsung declined to say when it might build phones that support Dish's unique Band 70 spectrum. Roughly a year ago, Dish hired Paul Chapple to obtain phones and other devices that support the company's vast and varied spectrum holdings.

Interestingly, the FCC recently approved two new smartphones from Motorola that support Dish's Band 70.

This article was updated on May 3 to clarify the fact that the $1 billion contract covers only Samsung radios and not phones.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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