open RAN

Dish Networks turns on first 5G test site, taps Intel for silicon

Dish Network announced it will use Intel's silicon in its 5G basestations. The development puts Dish one step further on its road toward a nationwide network deployment.

The two companies announced that Dish will use Intel's Xeon Scalable Processor, Ethernet 800 Series network adapter, vRAN Dedicated Accelerator ACC100 and FlexRAN software reference architecture.

The announcement coincides with the activation of Dish's first 5G cell site in Littleton, Colorado, where the company's wireless networking business is based. News of the cell site was posted to LinkedIn by Dish's Dave Mayo, the executive in charge of the physical buildout of Dish's 5G network.

Marc Rouanne, EVP and chief network officer for Dish, explained that Intel's silicon will power the servers that will control Dish's 5G radios. Dish hasn't yet announced which companies might supply its servers, but Rouanne said Dish would position the servers either at the base of its cell towers or in nearby datacenters.

Japan's Fujitsu is supplying Dish's 5G radios – the devices that will sit atop Dish cell towers and broadcast signals in its spectrum – while Mavenir and Altiostar will supply the software operating inside of the VMware cloud that will run Dish's servers.

Intel beat a number of other silicon vendors for Dish's business, including Broadcom and Marvell.

Intel and Dish aren't providing the financial details of their new agreement.

Intel has long been a supporter of the open RAN (radio access network) technology that Dish is using to design its network. Dish has said it expects to spend roughly $10 billion to construct a nationwide 5G network across its vast spectrum holdings; Rouanne acknowledged that much of that money will be used for things like tower rental fees and paying technicians to physically install its radios on top of those towers.

Dish executives have said that their network buildout project will start in earnest early next year. Rouanne said Dish remains comfortable with its financial situation, and that open RAN technology is "very competitive" in terms of its cost.

Dish has promised to cover a fifth of the US population by June 2022, and 70% of people by June 2023.

Dish's 5G buildout will include several different phases, according to Rouanne. The first will focus on covering significant portions of the US population, but subsequent phases will involve activities like ensuring indoor coverage, broadcasting in higher spectrum bands, and making use of Massive MIMO antenna technology.

Rouanne said those kinds of efforts are still "a few years down the road."

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

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