The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding an open RAN event today and tomorrow, featuring a who’s who list of speakers in the open RAN movement.
Two of the high-profile speakers today were University of Chicago professor and former FCC CTO Monisha Ghosh who quizzed Stephen Bye, chief commercial officer at Dish, about what Dish has learned as it deploys its standalone 5G network.
Bye noted that Dish is working with a plethora of vendors, many of them based in the U.S. with strength in software development.
Ghosh said that working with a lot of software vendors could introduce challenges, dealing with a deluge of data. “When you put these multiple vendors together to create this network and you have this data coming from different pieces, who has ownership of the data?” she asked.
Bye said the handling of data has been an important part of Dish’s process to make sure there was an appropriate level of information sharing and visibility. “There’s always sensitivity about data that is proprietary or confidential, but there are ways to mitigate that through a governing structure,” he said.
He also touted Dish’s operations support system (OSS) and business support system (BSS), which the company has said that it is getting from Amazon Web Services (AWS). He said the backend systems are “forward-looking and very different from a traditional operator.”
Considering that Ghosh and Bye were speaking at an open RAN event, they really didn’t talk that much about open RAN.
Bye did indicate that he was pretty thrilled about working in a software-focused network where feature development could happen so much faster than in the old days with a network based on proprietary hardware.
“This is to me one of the most exciting parts of an open system and open architecture that we have with O-RAN is the speed at which we can do feature development and deployment,” he said. “In a traditional model — and I have years of struggling through there — we would be talking about a two-year roadmap and functionality two or three years out and working to prioritize what we wanted in that roadmap.”
Asked about cost savings with open RAN, Bye said people like to focus on the cost savings of one component or another, but he looks at the overall cost of Dish’s new network “way beyond just the radio and the base station.” He’s thinking about the entire network from the antenna technology, to cabling, to batteries, “because the power benefit isn’t just the power on the radio, it is the ability to get the total cost down across the entire system that is important.”
Dish’s network deployment status
Dish has some big, well-publicized deadlines coming up. The looming one is that it has pledged to cover 20% of the U.S. population with 5G by June 2022. And then it’s pledged to boost that coverage to 70% of the U.S. population by 2023.
Bye said, “We are well on track in terms of our deployment to meet those objectives. We have not made too many public statements about the timing of when markets are coming on, but we have activity going underway nationwide right now.”
The company announced in April that its first 5G market is Las Vegas, and it recently shared on LinkedIn that it broke ground for 5G sites in Orlando, Florida and Washington, D.C.
Bye said activity includes site acquisition and development, radio deployments and backhaul construction. “We have activity underway coast to coast, border to border right now across the country,” he said. “It is a construction project and dealing with inventory, supply chain….it is fun to see the sites come on air.”