DISH to build the nation's first cloud-native 5G network on AWS

The standalone, cloud-based 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) is slated to go live in Las Vegas later this year.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

DISH is leveraging Amazon Web Services infrastructure and services to build a cloud-based 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN), the companies announced Wednesday. The strategic partnership between DISH and AWS marks the first time a 5G network will be run in the cloud. The network, which will eventually be nationwide, is slated to go live in Las Vegas later this year. 

As part of the deal, DISH is using AWS Outposts and Local Zones to support workloads at the network edge. AWS will also power DISH's fully automated Operation and Business Support Systems (OSS and BSS), which will enable the company to provision and operate its customers' 5G workloads and monetize its network.

Running the network on the cloud will offer a number of benefits, the companies noted. For instance, DISH will be able to leverage AWS machine learning services to predict areas of network congestion and to find anomalous network functionality. Running on the cloud will also help DISH quickly facilitate hardware and software upgrades. The deal also entails tapping into an ecosystem of cloud partners, including AWS's telecommunications partners who can help automate network slicing. 

Additionally, running the network on the cloud should make it easier for developers to build new 5G applications. They'll be able to leverage standard APIs to access DISH network attributes, such as user equipment latency, bit rate or equipment location. Equipped with that information, developers can then tap AWS services, in areas like machine learning or analytics, to build their applications. For instance, they could build a low-latency AR game optimized for the user's device. 

"Through this collaboration with AWS, we will operate not just as a communications services provider, but as a digital services provider harnessing the combined power of 5G connectivity and the cloud," Charlie Ergen, DISH co-founder and chairman, said in a statement. "As a new carrier, leveraging AWS and its extensive network of partners enables us to differentiate ourselves by operating our 5G network with a high degree of automation, utilizing the talent of AWS-trained developers and helping our customers bring new 5G applications to market faster than ever before."

DISH has spent more than a decade spending tens of billions on wireless spectrum, and over the years the company has faced mounting pressure from the Federal Communications Commission to actually put its airwaves to use. 

In 2019, as part of the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, DISH jumped into wireless retail, acquiring Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint's prepaid business for approximately $1.4 billion. As part of that deal, Dish also spent $3.6 billion for licenses to 14 MHz of nationwide 800 MHz spectrum.

Meanwhile, last year, DISH was one of the top spenders in an FCC auction for mid-band spectrum that will help the company deploy its 5G network.

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