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Dish begins publishing APIs, courting developers for 5G

Dish Network launched a new website aimed at developers keen to write applications for its new 5G network. And the company is hosting a "level up your dev" developer competition in conjunction with the upcoming AWS re:Invent trade show in Las Vegas, scheduled for later this month.

"We're changing the game so you can innovate with complete control to develop the future of seamless wireless connectivity, distributed workloads and data-driven apps," according to the company's new "level up your dev" website, which sports an eight-bit gaming design. The company's competition promises to give developers a chance to test out its offerings, work with developers already in the space, and meet the Dish executives focused on the effort.

Dish's Brian Mengwasser, VP of the company's MarketPlace and Apps Design, is leading the company's work with developers and the Dish developer portal.

Dish's main 5G headquarters are in Denver, Colorado. (Source: Dish)
Dish's main 5G headquarters are in Denver, Colorado.
(Source: Dish)

"A guiding principle at Dish is to open the network and eliminate any barriers to network APIs," wrote Dish executives Julian Bishop, Nikhil Sharma and Ramanathan Sekkappan in a recent post. "We believe that providing a low-risk, low-cost way to experiment on a 5G network is essential to accelerate innovations that require 5G connectivity. Exposing our network APIs is our approach to mobilizing developers around the nation so they can experiment on our platform in an easy and scalable manner."

An expanding library of APIs

On Dish's main developer portal, the company promises to offer a wide range of application programming interfaces (APIs) into its expanding 5G network. Categories of APIs include "connectivity service," "service observability" and "in-network cloud service." Many are listed as "coming soon," but the company is currently offering a number of APIs for "subscriber provisioning service" (SPS) that Dish said can "allow your admin to register, activate and manage your devices via API."

Specifically, Dish's subscriber provisioning service provides APIs and details for all kinds of services including activating and suspending customers' devices, managing SIMs and customer profiles, configuring and updating customers' usage allowance and threshold limits, checking network coverage and resetting voicemail passwords, and moving phone numbers to and from other providers.

"Using a legacy system, a developer would have to wait between 12 to 18 months to activate a device SIM card if they face restrictions or complicated configuration," wrote Bishop, Sharma and Sekkappan. "Then, the developer would have to rely on the network operator to maintain usage, billing and deactivation. This can be incredibly time consuming especially for a developer working with hundreds of devices."

With Dish, they wrote that customers can quickly and easily activate and update devices. For example, they wrote that a drone operator using the gadgets to survey risky construction sites can use the company's system to quickly suspend a connection to a drone while it's being repaired.

A new developer program

To be clear, Dish isn't the only wireless network operator to target developers. For example, AT&T for years hosted major developer events aimed at applications like smart cars and smart cities. Verizon operated a similar effort.

But those events have fallen by the wayside as app developers increasingly focus on smartphone platforms like iOS and Android.

For Dish, the company's new developer effort dovetails with its broad desire to develop a programmable wireless network that it can sell to a wide variety of customers. The company argues that its reliance on an open RAN network design and a cloud-native architecture – heavily leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) – represents a major break from the legacy offerings from the likes of AT&T and T-Mobile.

Dish officials have said that the company ultimately wants to build a network that can be "sliced" into different configurations for different customers. Those customers could include MVNOs, big enterprises, utilities or others.

Dish currently broadcasts its 5G signal from around 10,000 cell towers around the country, and is adding 1,000 towers per month to that total. The company hopes to eventually use around 35,000 total cell towers in its network. Connections among those towers and Dish's core network management service is handled primarily by AWS. Dish hopes to reach roughly 75% of the US population with its 5G signals by June of 2023.

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

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