Dish plots 5G network slicing with Ciena’s Blue Planet

Most wireless carriers aren’t yet talking about network slicing because it will a be a huge lift for them. Before they can sell dedicated “slices” of their network to different enterprises, they’ll have to make sure the slices work across their entire network, from the core to the RAN to the edge and across the transport. But Dish Network is already implementing plans for network slicing.

Dish Wireless Chief Network Officer Marc Rouanne said Dish has a big advantage because it’s building a greenfield network, so it can incorporate network slicing technologies right from the get-go.

“Slicing is coming natively as part of the standalone 5G network,” said Rouanne. “Everything we’re designing now is geared to slicing. The most intuitive way to think of it is having your own private network inside Dish.”

Today, Dish said it selected Ciena’s Blue Planet for its inventory management and service-order fulfillment software. And Blue Planet’s software will help Dish advance its network slicing ambitions.

Rouanne said, “In a traditional network your inventory is the sum of many parts built over time. It’s hard to have one global inventory of the network, then it’s very hard to slice it and automate it because you don’t have a real-time database that tells you at any time how your network is doing.”

Blue Planet’s software does two things. First, it provides the inventory database, revealing all the capabilities of the network at any given time from the core to the edge. Secondly, it provides service order management to match network resources with customer orders that have specific parameters such as bandwidth, coverage and latency.

“A slice is across the network,” said Rouanne. “It makes it difficult if you have parts that were not designed for slicing.” He said the Blue Planet software allows the network to assign resources to a slice based on the service order description.”

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Rouanne added that Blue Planet already has refined this software. “We didn’t have to ask Blue Planet to do something specific for us,” he said. “We can leverage everything that was invented for 5G.”

Rick Hamilton, SVP with Blue Planet, said that in the last two years, the company has made three acquisitions to build its expertise in closed-loop automation. It acquired DonRiver for its real-time inventory management; it purchased Packet Design for its multi-layer assurance application; and it bought Centina for its service assurance management.

“We can provision the service, define the right path from core to edge, provide assurance, learn, and then optimize,” said Hamilton. “We’re coming at this automation from a much broader perspective than most people know. Dish is really building this cloud-native virtual environment, and that was how Blue Planet was built."

Dish’s 5G core

Dish’s SA 5G core network is unlike the core networks of previous wireless generations in which hardware and software would reside in a few big data centers spread around the country. Dish’s SA 5G core is completely distributed. “You buy software that we call cloud-native functions (CNFs), and you can have thousands of instances,” said Rouanne. "The core will spin up new instances wherever they’re needed.” 

Those CNFs can reside on Dish data centers or compute resources at partner locations such as public clouds or at enterprises. “We can put it pretty much anywhere, using very basic computing capabilities,” said Rouanne.