Dish issues an RFP related to fiber for its 5G network

Dish Wireless
Some fiber experts say there are two major challenges to the deployment of fiber in the U.S. at this time. (Dish)

It’s always important to remember: wireless needs wires. In that spirit, Dish today said it plans to issue another request for information and request for proposal (RFI/RFP) in the coming weeks as it prepares to build a 5G wireless network. The latest RFI/RFP will include requests for telecom transport service companies to facilitate lit and dark fiber connectivity to cell towers, buildings and data centers.

As part of the proposed agreement for T-Mobile to merge with Sprint, Dish has committed to build a standalone 5G broadband network available to at least 70% of the U.S. population by June 2023. It’s yet to be seen if the T-Mobile merger with Sprint will get the final green light. And if it does not, it’s yet to be seen what Dish’s position might then be.

RELATED: T-Mobile/Sprint decision unlikely to be appealed either way it goes: analyst

But currently, Dish is moving forward with its plans to build a 5G network. And the success of 5G depends largely on the availability of dense, high quality fiber to connect 5G base stations and radios to the rest of the network and for backhaul.

At a FierceWireless event in November 2019, some fiber experts on an executive panel said there isn’t nearly enough new fiber being deployed in the United States to keep up with the demands of 5G. There are two major challenges. First, there’s a severe shortage of experienced fiber installers. And the second challenge is that it’s very time-consuming to work with municipalities to get all the necessary permits and permissions before new fiber can be deployed.

So perhaps Dish understands that time is of the essence even if the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is still uncertain.

"We’re building a 5G network from the ground up, with the opportunity to apply fresh ideas and new partners,” said Dish EVP of Wireless Operations Jeff McSchooler, in a prepared statement. “We’re seeking input from local and regional telecom transport partners as well as the national providers that have supported our existing video business for decades. We see an opportunity to learn from nontraditional partners as well, like utilities and municipalities that may be deploying fiber in their communities. We are exploring varying transport infrastructures to support our aggressive buildout.”

In an email to FierceWireless, a Dish spokesperson said Dish works with multiple fiber vendors for its current businesses. Video can require high-bandwidth transport between uplink centers and Dish locations, or from programmers to Dish facilities. "We don’t typically discuss our vendors by name, but we work with several of the national providers that would be common names in the industry," said the spokesperson. "We are discussing our needs with these partners but are interested in speaking with others that may operate on a more local or regional scale.

Its new Telecom Transport Services RFI/RFP is the fifth such document Dish has issued. The RFPs issued to date include:

  1. July 2019: 5G Network RFI/RFP seeking input for the network elements
  2. September 2019: System RFP seeking responses from vendors to provide a software solution for project management, workflows, reporting and other utilities that aid in deploying the national network
  3. October 2019: Deployment Services RFP seeking input for end-to-end deployment services including pre-construction and construction services
  4. January 2020: 5G Component RFP seeking input from vendors regarding physical assets of the network such as mounts, cabinets and hybrid cables
  5. January 2020: Telecom Transport Services RFI/RFP