Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Wednesday, December 2, 2020
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Intel Finds a 5G Partner: DISH 

Enterprise infrastructure vendors of varying stripes continue to turn their attention to 5G wireless rollouts, forging partnerships with a growing list of carriers looking to extend their telecommunications and entertainment networks to the bleeding edge.

The latest partnership is a collaboration by Intel Corp. and DISH Network, the satellite television company. The partners said Monday (Nov. 2) they will work together on a virtualized, Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) 5G deployment based on the chip maker’s hardware and software reference architecture.

The collaboration would allow DISH to become the latest carrier to roll out a cloud-native “greenfield” 5G network based on the emerging wireless industry radio access network standard.

Along with delivering enterprise edge applications, the partners said they would collaborate on future phases of the 5G deployment, including data optimization and machine learning. (Intel last week acquired AI optimization software vendor SigOpt, whose tools are designed to tune hardware and software parameters in order to scale AI models.)

The DISH edge network will be built around the Intel Xeon Scalable processor, the chip maker’s Ethernet 800 Series network adapter, vRAN dedicated accelerator ACC100 and its FlexRAN software reference architecture.

The partners are members of the O-RAN Alliance, which along with other key infrastructure vendors and network carriers are coalescing around the software-defined 5G radio access ecosystem. Along with DISH, Intel also has worked with Japan’s Rakuten Mobile to deploy among the first “greenfield” 5G networks based on the O-RAN spec.

While hardware in the form of antennas and RF front-ends remain critical for 5G deployments, cloud and network vendors and their wireless partners are touting the virtues of virtualization. Software-defined radio access networks and perhaps even core infrastructure and transport promise to hasten 5G rollouts while reducing development costs and seeding a data-driven 5G ecosystem, proponents assert.

“Fully virtualized, cloud-native networks, like the one DISH is building, bring the same server economics that transformed the datacenter,” Dan Rodriguez, general manager of Intel’s Network Platforms Group, noted in announcing the 5G partnership with DISH (NASDAQ: DISH),

Marc Rouanne, chief network officer at DISH, said the satellite carrier is using VMware virtualization software along with Intel-based servers “to load and mix different types of cloud-native workloads,” including virtual routers, mobile edge computing applications and 5G core containerized network functions.

Along with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), DISH said it is working with Mavenir Systems, an early Open RAN software vendor. Citing market volatility, Mavenir dropped plans late last week for a $300 million initial public offering.

The DISH-Intel partnership is the second in as many weeks between a major carrier and an infrastructure vendor. Last week, AT&T and IBM said they would expand collaboration on a next-generation wireless network built around IBM’s Satellite hybrid cloud platform. That cloud platform is based on Red Hat OpenShift, which is being used to manage applications and cloud workloads as they are extended to the edge of emerging 5G networks.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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