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Dish aims for ‘app store for the RAN’ with VMware RIC trial

Dish Wireless is furthering its relationship with VMware, announcing plans to trial the virtualisation specialist’s RIC for its RAN applications.

The US telco, which is in the process of building a brand new cloud native, Open RAN-based 5G network, says one of its aims from the trial is to evaluate whether VMware’s RIC, or RAN Intelligent Controller, to give it its full title, can help it to mix and match RAN software, taking advantage of what it terms “an app store for the RAN.”

The idea of the RIC essentially functioning as a RAN app store has been floated by a number of vendors – VMware and others – but now it seems we have a telco running with the idea. The RIC is emerging as a key element of Open RAN architectures, serving as it does as a management platform for Open RAN networks. It hosts near-real-time and non-real-time applications that bring capabilities such as automation, optimisation and customisation and, crucially, it allows for vendor interoperability.

That, it seems, is what Dish is looking for from the VMware trial. The telco seeks to evaluate whether the VMware RIC will enable it to create custom solutions from a strong ecosystem of RIC innovators, it said, in a release positioned to appear as having been generated by Dish itself, but that doubtless had heavy involvement from VMware.

“In the coming years, Dish expects a rich ecosystem of xApps and rApps to take shape—almost like an App Store for the RAN. With a RIC platform, DISH will be able to mix and match RAN software from multiple vendors and assemble powerful new solutions for their networks and customers,” it stated. xApps and rApps are near-real-time and non-real-time apps respectively.

The trial will also focus on network automation and enhanced security, Dish added.

“Dish’s Network of Networks will leverage network slicing, Open RAN (O-RAN), and other 5G innovations to provide customized network services,” said a statement from the telco’s chief network officer Marc Rouanne. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience. It can be customizable, by speed, latency, data requirements – all defined by the customer. We are redefining the relationship between service provider and enterprise, and VMware has been a strategic partner in helping us achieve this vision,” he said.

That doesn’t tell us a lot about this particular trial, other than to reinforce Dish’s position as a network innovator.

Indeed, Dish is working with a lot of big names in the Open RAN space, adding VMware to its suppliers a couple of years ago; the firm is already contracted to supply its telco cloud platform to Dish. We have also heard a lot from Dish about its work with the likes of Mavenir, Altiostar and many more, in addition to its decision to use the public cloud to deploy its 5G network, specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS).

What we haven’t heard a lot of are launch plans.

Dish had planned to launch its 5G network in Las Vegas in the autumn, a year behind its original schedule, and further delays have ensued, leaving the industry speculating as to when it will flip the switch. It’s supposed to happen this quarter, but with only a month remaining of Q1, the operator is keeping its mouth shut for now.

There’s only so much longer Dish can keep impressing us with its technology prowess without putting some of its kit into action.

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