DISH has never shied away from new business or technological challenges. After disrupting the pay TV industry first with satellite TV and later with live TV streaming, DISH today is creating its next big disruption. The company has built a “network of networks”—a new, state-of-the-art 5G wireless network that will offer not only consumer services but also unparalleled enterprise offerings. This new, cloud-based network will enable businesses to define their own experience with subnetworks optimized for speed, latency and other requirements.

Unlike other service providers that are trying to incorporate legacy technologies to deliver 5G services, DISH constructed this new innovative network from the ground up. By building with the VMware Telco Cloud Platform and VMware Cloud on AWS, DISH has a versatile, cloud-native environment that helps the company develop and deliver new 5G services rapidly.

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Taking a greenfield approach to 5G

DISH was determined to make a strong entrance into the wireless industry. The company launched Project Genesis to offer consumers 5G wireless service across the entire United States. Beyond consumer wireless voice, text and data, DISH will offer private 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT) services and edge applications designed specifically for enterprise customers.

To deliver all those services, DISH needed a versatile, scalable platform. Adopting an open approach was a top priority. DISH wanted the flexibility to implement best-in-class solutions while minimizing potential integration and interoperability issues. Cloud-native capabilities were equally important. With a cloud-native platform, DISH could gain the agility to deliver new services fast while mitigating costs and complexity.

At the same time, DISH wanted to create a unified, multi-cloud network spanning core to edge. Unifying the network would enable the company to run applications in the right place, whether on premises in data centers or at the cloud’s edge, near enterprise businesses.  

Building on an open, cloud-native and unified platform from VMware

After carefully evaluating solutions from traditional telco equipment suppliers, DISH decided to build its new 5G network with the VMware Telco Cloud Platform. Only VMware provides an open, cloud-native platform that can unify DISH’s network technology.

“VMware software serves as a powerful foundation for our cloud-native, software-defined 5G network,” says Marc Rouanne, executive vice president and chief network officer at DISH Wireless. “By bringing together innovations such as the distributed cloud, edge computing and network slicing, this software helps us provide our customers with customizable, secure solutions that are more cost-effective than legacy, vertically integrated, hardware-reliant alternatives.”

VMware is supplying key technologies for DISH’s open radio-access network (RAN). In the past, RAN infrastructure has typically used proprietary hardware and software. But the VMware RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) abstracts underlying RAN infrastructure and enables DISH to deploy the company’s choice of control and management apps in the RAN. DISH created an open, intelligent RAN, gained the agility to quickly respond to changing customer needs, and is able to better protect the RAN from security threats.

The DISH Smart 5G network launched in May 2022. The company then quickly expanded service to more than 120 cities across the United States, offering 5G broadband to more than 20 percent of the U.S. population. Initially, the network was launched as an invitation-only beta program through which members could test the network and provide feedback about their experience.

“This is an important step forward in our work to connect Americans to our Smart 5G network, but it’s only the beginning,” says John Swieringa, president and chief operating officer, DISH Wireless. “We continue to focus on building out more coverage and bringing innovative 5G services and solutions to our customers.”

Enhancing multi-cloud flexibility from core to edge

While other service providers often move only select applications and workloads from their data centers to public clouds, DISH runs all of its 5G applications and workloads on AWS. To address the stringent demands of running virtualized network functions (VNFs) on native AWS, DISH is using VMware Cloud on AWS. The VMware Cloud solution enables DISH to capitalize on the unique capabilities of AWS while also allowing the company to tap into other public clouds in the future without adding complexity.

With multi-cloud flexibility, DISH can offer more choices to its business customers—all while maintaining consistent operations and infrastructure across clouds. “We want to let enterprises choose how and where they consume applications,” says Rouanne. “Some enterprises want to access applications at the edge, which might be in a warehouse or in their own data center. They might want to use our cloud to access their enterprise apps running in a public cloud. With VMware, we have the flexibility to accommodate the diversity of the real enterprise world at the distributed edge.”

Creating a collaborative environment with open technologies

Using an open approach for a 5G network allows DISH to choose best-in-class technologies without being locked into vertical solutions. It also helped DISH bring together multiple vendors to collaborate on innovative solutions. Vendors who used to be competitors are now working together.

The VMware RIC helps to unlock the openness and speed of collaborative innovation. By providing SDKs with readily available tools and features, the VMware RIC reduces networking and communication complexities to accelerate development of RAN applications.

“We have virtual labs where we collaborate with our partners, sharing data and tools,” says Rouanne. “It has become a true DevOps environment where we can learn every day. And the speed is really exciting: Now we can make changes in days that used to take much longer.”

Streamlining development processes through automation

As DISH developers work with an ecosystem of partners to deliver new apps and services, automation can help increase the speed of results. DISH plans to automate key tasks—from upgrading software to conducting large-scale testing—which will enable teams to complete those tasks much faster than with manual processes. This approach will also provide a real advantage over traditional telco companies, whose legacy systems cannot support the same level of automation. “If we can run thousands of tests per day, we’ll be able to see success or failure in minutes,” says Rouanne.

Accelerating delivery of engaging 5G apps and services

By building its 5G network with the flexible, open VMware Telco Cloud Platform and VMware Cloud on AWS, DISH can rapidly deliver engaging new services to businesses and consumers. Meanwhile, running apps in the cloud and using VMware to establish consistent operations and infrastructure across clouds allows the company to achieve the agility it needs to succeed without excessive complexity.

“We are building a 5G network that will use open architecture and will be cloud based, automated and O-RAN compatible,” says DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen. “It will be the envy of the world.”

“This is a big moment for DISH as we connect customers across the country with America’s first and only cloud-native Open RAN network,” says Dave Mayo, executive vice president, Network Development, DISH Wireless. “This milestone was achieved through the collaboration, ingenuity and hard work of the DISH team and several key partners, including VMware.”  ▪