DENVER – Dish Network co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen told attendees at this week’s Competitive Carriers Association Mobile Carriers Show that his company’s plans to use virtualization and software as the foundation for its 5G network plan is a “real paradigm shift.” And that those rural carriers in attendance would be able to tap into that software-powered network using network slicing technology.
Ergen told attendees that Dish Networks’ focus on using virtualization and software to power its 5G network is the paradigm shift it needs to go up against larger rivals. He explained that many think that the paradigm shift is 5G, “but that’s just part of it,” Ergen added.
“It’s really the architecture,” he said. “When you move to virtualization and are doing in software what you do in hardware today, the robustness of what that network will do is a paradigm shift.”
Ergen said that Dish Networks’ focus on using virtualization and software in its 5G deployment will give it an advantage over incumbent providers that are still tethered to hardware-based systems.
“The wireless industry needs to move to the cloud just like data centers moved to the cloud,” Ergen said. “It’s a big challenge. We are going to need a lot of help and hope people in this room will help us.”
In return, Ergen said that Dish Networks’ virtualized architecture would allow for network slicing that rural carriers could take advantage of. “Because we are going to be virtualized and in the cloud for the most part with our processing … you should be able to lease a slice of our spectrum and it will look like yours,” Ergen said, though he did add that, “We have not done it yet, but that’s the theory.”
In fact, Ergen encouraged those in attendance to, “Call me, email me. You will get a response.”
Network Like Rakuten
Dish Networks’ 5G deployment plans are grouped into two phases. Phase one will be a narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network set to launch in less than a year. That launch date is somewhat firm as Dish Networks’ spectrum licenses have a build out date requirement from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Dish Networks late last year struck a deal with Ericsson to provide radio access and core network equipment for its NB-IoT network. In addition, tower firm SBA Communications revealed in a quarterly earnings call with investors that Dish has signed tower leasing agreements with the company.
The second phase will be a 5G network based upon the not-yet-released 3GPP Release 16 standard. That standard, which is often called standalone 5G, is intended to allow operators to launch a 5G network without requiring an underlying 4G network. The paradigm shift Ergen was referring to will come into play as part of the phase two plans.
“We are more excited about phase two and it will make a difference in every industry and everyone’s lives,” he said.
Ergen likened the phase two plans to that of Japan’s Rakuten, which is in the process of rolling out a fully virtualized network offering. That network is initially going to rely on more traditional 4G LTE components through an agreement with established Japanese telecom giant NTT DoCoMo, but it plans to begin rolling out 5G services beginning early next year.
While Ergen was bullish on Dish Networks’ plans, he also under his breath admitted that those plans would require billions of dollars and that even if fully funded it could fail in the marketplace.
“You increase your odds when you burn the bridges and are all in,” Ergen said, adding that Dish was taking “every penny” it “has ever earned and investing into a wireless network.”