Dish contributes PAL to CBRS pilot with Duke, Cisco

Dish Wireless and Cisco are teaming up with Internet2 and Duke University on the launch of a neutral host network pilot for higher education institutions using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) shared spectrum.

The neutral host network will integrate Duke University’s private network, powered by Cisco’s Private 5G as a service platform and Internet2’s upgraded fifth-generation national research and education network, with Dish Wireless’ 5G network.

The trial will launch this summer.

The deployment uses a combination of unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) and Priority Access License (PAL) spectrum. Specifically, it’s a Dish PAL supplemented with GAA spectrum, according to Internet2.

It’s Internet2’s first neutral host network pilot using CBRS in collaboration with industry and higher education members.

“We continue to explore areas of collaboration and opportunities to support our members,” Internet2 President and CEO Howard Pfeffer told Fierce.

Rather than providing two separate infrastructures throughout campuses for cellular and Wi-Fi, the “holy grail” has always been for a single, common network delivering both cellular and high-speed private Wi-Fi, according to Tracy Futhey, vice president and chief information officer at Duke University.

“The recent availability of CBRS, together with our collaboration with Internet2, Dish Wireless and Cisco, makes this vision a reality by delivering a private Duke wireless network over the carrier-grade cellular infrastructure that stretches throughout our campus,” Futhey said in a statement.

Private mobile networks can better and more efficiently serve mobile subscribers, including on-campus students and faculty, via a radio access network (RAN)-sharing agreement between mobile operators and universities, also referred to as a neutral host network, according to Internet2’s press release.

“It can be difficult for today’s current wireless networks to provide consistently reliable connectivity and coverage across an entire university campus. The goal of this innovative neutral host proof of concept is to improve the quality of the connectivity across Duke’s campus through the use of a private CBRS-connected 5G network,” said Stephen Bye, chief commercial officer at Dish Wireless, in a statement. “Our objective is to enhance connectivity across the campus with this groundbreaking collaboration with our partners.”

Last year, Dish and Cisco announced an agreement to accelerate 5G in the U.S. using Dish’s 5G network and Cisco’s cloud networking and automation software, as well as end-to-end lifecycle services from Cisco Customer Experience. At the time, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen identified Cisco as a key player in helping Dish customize and automate 5G for the enterprise.

Community-wide collaboration

Internet2 is a non-profit that was founded by leading higher education institutions in 1996. According to the organization, this collaboration with Duke, Dish and Cisco emerged from a new Future Wireless Working Group (FWWG) established by Internet2 in March 2020.

The FWWG convened multiple university chief information officers and technology leaders to consider the impact, challenges and opportunities for community-wide collaboration to evaluate and implement emerging wireless technologies, such as 5G, in higher education. These technologies will support higher educational research and development initiatives and improve campus services.

“We are excited to help our higher education members evaluate the use of advanced wireless technologies across a variety of innovative uses,” Pfeffer said in a statement. “Our operational capabilities for services, such as eduroam Wi-Fi roaming and our fifth-generation national research and education network, combined with our role as a convener allows Internet2 to bring together and enable unique collaborations between universities and leading industry providers.”