DISH to construct its 5G network on AWS in major cloud-telco marker

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.

It is another cloudy day in the telecom industry – but DISH certainly hopes that the sun will shine tomorrow and beyond.

The operator, the fourth largest in the United States, confirmed it has chosen Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred cloud provider. More pivotally, however, it has also agreed to construct its 5G network on Amazon’s cloud in a telecom industry first.

DISH ‘will achieve agile and cost-effective operations while seeking to redefine the practical applications of 5G’, the company said in a statement. “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,” added Charlie Ergen, DISH co-founder and chairman.

Make no mistake: this does not appear to be an exercise in semantics or a rip-and-replace. DISH is looking to deploy the first standalone, cloud-based 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) in the US, with Las Vegas pegged as the first site later this year. DISH aims to utilise AWS across the stack, running its 5G Core, BSS and OSS. This also leads in to partnerships, with DISH touting ‘exclusively’ to vendors offering cloud-native technology.

The partnership represents another potential step-change in how public cloud providers and telecom operators do business. As this publication has variously reported, the promise of edge computing and 5G makes collaboration a win-win.

Cloud providers have the infrastructure capability, not to mention expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), while telcos have the edge on the network. The combination of 5G and AI/ML, and the need to entice developers who are able to build next-gen services with them, dictate the need for cooperation rather than competition.

One outspoken evangelist on this potential is Danielle Royston. The former CEO of Optiva has courted headlines in the trade press – this publication included – for her plans to rebrand Ericsson’s stand at MWC Barcelona in June as ‘Cloud City.’ Underpinning this is her belief that telcos need to develop a much deeper synergy with the public cloud providers and banish their previous mistakes to history.

Royston confirmed to CloudTech in a note that this strategy was more in line with her original vision, moving from ‘maybe BSS but not the network’ to a full core and edge migration. She also noted this could be a ‘whole new financial model to consider.’

“The public cloud is not just a place for telecoms providers to park their applications,” Royston added. “It’s an opportunity to completely rethink their IT and network deployment model, top to bottom. They can refactor it so that it’s easier to manage, have leaner code, and better yet, be primed to take advantage of new technologies.

“This news is the breaking of the dam of the old school thought pattern,” said Royston. “It proves that telcos can do way more on the public cloud than many people think. It’s not just the BSS, it’s the entire network: RAN and core. If you’re still deploying on-premise, your five-year capex decision is doomed to be a write-off the day you make it.”

“DISH’s cloud-native and truly virtualised 5G network is a clear example of how AWS customers can use our proven infrastructure and unparalleled portfolio of services to reinvent industries,” said AWS chief executive Andy Jassy. “This collaboration means DISH and its customers can bring new consumer- and enterprise-centric services to the market as quickly as they’re created to deliver on the promise of 5G.”

Photo by Silvia Brazzoduro on Unsplash

Read more: Danielle Royston, TelcoDR: On buying Ericsson’s MWC stand and the public cloud-telco opportunity

Want to find out more about topics like this from industry thought leaders? The Cloud Transformation Congress, taking place on 13 July 2021, is a virtual event and conference focusing on how to enable digital transformation with the power of cloud.

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