With Next-Generation RAN Management, DISH Aims to Build a Network of Networks

Incumbent service providers transitioning to 5G have to navigate all sorts of constraints. Somehow, the groundbreaking new capabilities they’re building need to fit within pre-existing network architectures, operations frameworks, cell tower footprints, and more. But when you’re new to the mobile entrant, building a brand-new 5G network from scratch, you get to make your own rules and break a few. Just ask DISH Network.

While other carriers undertake elaborate transformation plans to reorient around enterprise services, where they expect to see the bulk of 5G revenues, DISH built their network from the ground up to serve these customers. The vision: a “Network of Networks” that provides a multitude of services and network slices, each tailored for different customers and use cases, over a unified 5G infrastructure.

It’s an ambitious goal, especially when it comes to the radio access network (RAN). Incumbents are still navigating the huge changes that 5G brings to their RAN architectures and operations. For DISH? It’s always been a 5G world. From the earliest stages, DISH’s network was designed for network slicing and modularization. And it will give them a big leg up in monetizing 5G.

Envisioning a Network of Networks

DISH wants to be at the vanguard of a shift in the marketplace, where service providers redefine their relationships with enterprise customers. Instead of selling one-size-fits-all connectivity, service providers will use network slicing, Open RAN, and other 5G innovations to provide customized network services. With its Network of Networks, DISH aims to create custom solutions that meet diverse application requirements for latency, performance, resiliency, and other characteristics. Dish wants to be able to treat the network as a fungible pool of resources, where one can quickly assemble specialized service packages to meet diverse internal and customer needs.

To do it, DISH built their 5G infrastructure to embrace three key principles:

  • Programmability: DISH’s 5G network is fully cloud-native and software-defined end to end. Dish will be able to quickly spin up the right network resources for a given slice or service, and deploy it automatically across the network—from core to edge to RAN, and from cloud to customer.
  • Openness: DISH’s entire 5G infrastructure is open and interoperable, designed to accommodate multiple vendors and clouds. While other service providers undertake an arduous transition from closed, proprietary systems to open multivendor environments—especially in the RAN—DISH’s network is open by default.
  • Scaled Performance: DISH built their 5G network to meet demanding enterprise requirements for performance, resiliency, and low latency—and to continually assure that they’re meeting those requirements under service-level agreements (SLAs). Network resources are virtualized and cloudified, giving DISH the flexibility to quickly scale up capacity and performance wherever required. And, while traditional Ops teams have to correlate monitoring data from different network layers, DISH will have unified intelligence and assurance across its end-to-end environment.

Reimagining Operations

Building an open, agile, high-performance network is just the first step. You have to be able to operate it too—and you can’t rely on models from yesterday’s networks. To deliver customized services and slices, all network domains and the technologies enabling them need to cross-communicate and behave consistently. You can’t, for example, have one set of security and quality-of-service (QoS) policies for the core, another totally different set for the RAN, and try to stitch them together to deliver a guaranteed network slice.

To deliver a Network of Networks, this vision for next-generation operations needs to extend all the way across the complex RAN environment. Fortunately, DISH doesn’t have to deal with some of the challenges incumbents face, like integrating new RAN technology with old, non-ideal cell tower footprint. Like the rest of their network, DISH’s RAN was designed to meet the demanding requirements of multiple services over the same infrastructure.

DISH’s next-generation RAN supports:

  • Automation: DISH’s open, multivendor 5G RAN brings new orchestration requirements on top of the typical ones that come with any network. Ops teams need to manage ongoing software upgrades and large-scale testing, design and onboard network functions, and perform lifecycle management of each cloud-native component in a unified automated way, across the multi-cloud network. DISH’s 5G operation model automates most of this effort.
  • Optimization: DISH’s network supports end-to-end intelligence, and dynamic traffic automated management, including across the RAN. The network can track real-time performance and available network resources, and autonomously optimize itself based on the needs of a given service or slice—including optimizing Kubernetes clusters.
  • Monetization: DISH’s 5G RAN, and the Network of Networks model it supports, won’t just enable an expanded service portfolio. It will function as an innovation platform to monetize 5G network investments in new ways. With flexible, software-defined RAN resources, DISH can quickly roll out new enterprise offerings like Private 5G, create customized network slices for specific verticals, such as hospitality, transportation, ports, and healthcare. Dish can partner with “over-the-top” providers to deliver new solutions. Further, taking advantage of an ecosystem of new, groundbreaking third-party RAN applications that will run on the network’s open RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) platform.

Redefining the Customer Experience

DISH is amassing some truly impressive technology. But at the end of the day, DISH’s Network of Networks vision isn’t really about technology. It’s about unleashing new capabilities to help enterprises grow and transform their businesses.

Some carriers still have significant work to do to enable those transformative experiences, but DISH is starting with that kind of agility out of the gate. Expert in cloud technology, VMware is thrilled to be playing a key role in making it happen. In addition, VMware is helping to aggregate network resources to bring all the 5G capabilities together as a holistic cloud-based system.

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

Read the Press Release

To learn more about what Dish is enabling with their Network of Networks,  please visit their website.

To learn more about how VMware unifies multi-cloud environments, please visit the website to explore  VMware Telco Cloud Platform.

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