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open RAN

Dish's 5G sales pitch thickens around security

Dish Network executives have been discussing the basics of the company's cloud-based, open RAN 5G network technology for months. Now, though, the company is beginning to craft a 5G marketing message for prospective enterprise customers.

And Dish's first effort in that arena centers on security.

"Dish has been engaging with customers that require a robust security solution," the company wrote in a new white paper posted to its website. "These customers are seeking greater control over their networks, data and tools that optimize resources supporting their businesses."

Continued the company: "As a result, Dish developed Dish 5G – a cloud-native solution that integrates network security from the foundation up."

The company argued that its approach to security will give it an edge against the competition. "The technology Dish has chosen to deploy integrates a new level of threat correlation, 5G network slice security, end-user visibility and customer control from day one, with a zero-trust posture."

Dish said its approach to security is better than those available from 'legacy' providers. Click here for a larger version of this image. (Source: Dish)
Dish said its approach to security is better than those available from "legacy" providers. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Dish)

Importantly, Dish argued that its 5G network will be more secure than the 5G networks currently available from the likes of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, which are in the midst of upgrading legacy 3G and 4G networks to 5G technologies. "Some of the challenges of retrofitting 5G over traditional networks include inadequate security protections, inflexible infrastructure and lack of customer control. Traditional, one-size-fits-all networks cannot compare to the reliability, latency and flexibility of Dish 5G," the company argued.

Dish's approach to security crystalized during the past week as the company announced agreements with Nokia, Allot and Palo Alto Networks. Dish said Palo Alto will supply containerized firewalls, Allot will provide Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and user plane protection and Nokia will supply end-to-end security and orchestration.

"We're really happy with the progress," said Sidd Chenumolu, Dish's VP of technology development, during the Informa Tech Open RAN Digital Conference Thursday.

Chenumolu said Dish is working to build a network that functions like a smartphone operating system, so that it can support network applications for both consumer and enterprise customers. On its website, Dish specifically targets enterprise customers in markets including smart cities, renewable energy, healthcare, education, precision agriculture, smart manufacturing, autonomous vehicles and retail.

"It's a paradigm shift," Chenumolu said of Dish's approach, noting the company will support technologies like automation and CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous deployment) that are new in mobile networks.

Dish has promised to start testing a 5G network in at least one major US city by the third quarter of this year.

Dish's messaging around the security of its network is noteworthy considering Ericsson – one of the world's largest wireless network equipment vendors – has raised concerns about the security of networks running open RAN designs.

"Secure open RAN systems may require additional security measures not yet fully addressed, a trusted stack for software and hardware, and interoperability between vendors with a common understanding and implementation of security requirements," argued Jason Boswell, head of security for Ericsson's Network Product Solutions, in a post on the company's website.

Open RAN proponents have argued that the technology – which is designed to allow network operators to mix and match components from a variety of vendors in a virtualized, software-powered environment – can be more secure than traditional network designs supplied by solitary vendors.

That's certainly the position Dish is taking, arguing in its white paper that the flexibility in its open RAN network allows it to "continuously iterate, modify and enhance the network at the speed of its customers and the velocity of the attack area."

But in its own white paper, Ericson argues that the security issue becomes more complex in an open RAN environment. "Virtualization and the use of cloud platforms give the possibility to utilize hardware resources better between different application, but it will also introduce security risks as isolation between applications are only 'logical' in software without physical isolation across hardware resources."

The company continued: "A cloud-native or a virtualized environment includes many different layers, each with its own security functions. From an application perspective the use of all these security functions at the different layers involves trust at all layers."

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

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