US disruptor Dish Network this week offered honest insight on its 5G build progress, with EVP Dave Mayo reminding WIA’s Connect (X) conference Dish is not relying on traditional network equipment vendors Ericsson and Nokia, whom he called “the Scandinavian mafia”.

Instead, Dish is disaggregating the radio network as it launches arguably the world’s first greenfield 5G open RAN cloud-based network.

He said his top priority right now is to “push Mavenir and Altiostar to get their RAN software to work well with Fujitsu radios and the AWS core”.

“I’m really happy with the progress”, Mayo said. “It’s been probably a little slower than we thought but it’s very startup-y”.

Dish Network needs to cover 20 per cent of the US population by June 2022 in order to hit its first milestone as part of the commitment it made to the US government when it acquired spectrum as part of the T-Mobile US/Sprint merger.

“I like to refer to this as building the tracks just ahead of the train”, Mayo said. “The train is coming”.

Mayo said Dish Network wants a “backlog of building permits” so its subcontractors will be able to build continuously once they get started. He said site construction is already underway in 32 US markets, primarily in the middle of the country since site acquisition is more complex “in some big markets on the coast”.

Dish Network is collocating its radio antenna units on existing towers whenever possible, Mayo said, rather than building new sites. He noted some markets will not require any new site builds. Dish has signed colocation agreements with Crown Castle, SBAC, American Tower and Vertical Bridge.

Supply chain issues
Mayo said ramping up the internal supply chain is another priority. Warehouses that previously made set-top boxes for Dish’s satellite TV network are now making custom cabinets for Dish’s wireless infrastructure. At least one subcontractor is pre-building configurations in its warehouse rather than shipping components.

Global supply chain issues have caused “a couple of flare-ups”, Mayo said.  “We’ve got one issue that may or may not materialise, but it’s out there on the horizon”, he added. “I’m cautiously optimistic it will be solved by the time we get there”.