DISH makes plans for Samsung, but which ones?

What does the DISH-Samsung RAN deal tell us?

Samsung and DISH have announced that the vendor will be supplying vRAN software and Radio Units to DISH’s budding network.

You can read the release here:

Key details:

  • Deal covers vRAN software and a variety of O-RAN compliant Radio Units, including Massive MIMO radios.
  • There’s a hint but not a confirmation of the expected operating environment, with Samsung reminding the world that its “vRAN can operate on any commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) server”
  • Will Samsung’s vRAN and RUs interwork with those of other vendors? Maybe. Again the release says, “With its cloud-native architecture, DISH Wireless’ Open RAN deployment is based on open interfaces, allowing for multi-vendor interoperability and various deployment scenarios.”
  • The Samsung radios will also support all of DISH’s Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum bands (including n71, n29, n66, n70, n48 and n77).

Aside from the details there, we have had it confirmed that the deal is worth over a billion dollars to Samsung, over a multi-year period. So it is not a side-deal bit of tinkering. After Verizon and Vodafone, it’s further intrusion by Samsung into the T1 space,  again given a particular boost by the Open RAN trade winds.

Until we know where DISH intends to spend the most, we won’t know if this is a deal to get the operator’s hands on commercially-ready RUs – which has been an O-RAN sticking point, especially in the mentioned mMIMO zone – or is a move chiefly to further diversify its vRAN software base, where it already engages with Altiostar and Mavenir.

If it’s the first, then that would be less market-moving than the latter, in that it is known that scale provision of O-RUs is an issue, whereas Samsung stepping in with large vRAN deployment can’t be interpreted as great news for Mavenir and Altiostar.

What about the cloud native aspect? DISH has tasked its other vRAN vendors to work in AWS environments, where VMWare’s cloud stack of operational and automation tools runs on AWS. Samsung said to TMN that “we are supporting DISH’s target architecture.” If you look at the diagram below that Samsing helpfully provided in its press release, it shows the DU on x86 architecture and the CU on a generic looking “telco ready platform”.

This post from Amazon includes the following target archtecture diagram, which shows the CU in an AWS LocalZone (AWS calls these Breakout Edge Data Centres), and the DU very close to or integrated with the RU at the site.

The two diagrams could fit together, with the vDU on an Intel and the CU in the AWS BEDC site, labelled as “telco-ready platform” in AWS’s diagram.

If that is the case, it might be the first time we have seen Samsung deploy public vRAN software on AWS, although the vendor is an existing partner with VMWare, which acts as the “glue” between software and hardware in the DISH network.

Although there are outstanding questions, and we are hoping for a bit more detail from both DISH and Samsung, it’s certainly an interesting announcement and one to keep an eye on as things develop.