Dish tunes into Symphony’s OSS overture

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Nov 24, 2021

  • Dish Network is prepping the launch of its Open RAN-enabled 5G services
  • It is still piecing together its cloud-based systems
  • It has turned to Rakuten Symphony for some key automation smarts
  • Deal shows that Symphony isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ vendor of Open RAN capabilities

Here’s a development that tells us a lot about the kind of relationships we might expect to see emerging in the mobile network technology sector in the next few years, as two of the biggest names in the emerging Open RAN sector have struck up a carrier/vendor relationship, even though they are both (currently) network operators (of sorts).

Dish Network, which is on the cusp of launching a greenfield Open RAN-enabled 5G network in the US, has selected Rakuten Symphony's observability framework (OBF) to “collect telemetry data from all network functions that will enable the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to operate and optimize the DISH 5G network.” 

Dish will integrate the OBF software into its operations platform that will bring together the capabilities of a “roster of OSS vendors [that] will aggregate service assurance, monitoring, customer experience and automation,” according to this Dish announcement

Dish says it is adding Rakuten Symphony to its growing list of “modern telco infrastructure vendors that support Open RAN and cloud-native technologies as a provider of Operational Support Systems (OSS) services.”

This is interesting for a number of reasons. The first is the way that Dish is attempting to build a repository of OSS functionality in a single platform that, like all of its other systems, will run on the AWS cloud: This is how Open RAN mavericks roll, people! 

And of course, the whole industry is waiting to see when and how the Dish 5G service launch goes, because it’s already late and is truly a first of its kind (a greenfield Open RAN 5G network running on a third-party cloud platform).

But it’s also interesting because it’s another early feather in the cap for Rakuten Symphony,  the Open RAN products and solutions arm of Rakuten Mobile that’s being tuned up for an IPO or stake sale, but which currently is still part of the Japanese 4G/5G network operator, making it both operator and vendor at the same time: That’s an unusual model in the telecoms sector right now, but one we are likely to see crop up more and more often as operators develop useful cloud-oriented, software technology inhouse and then seek to make money from it. Once Symphony is 'set free,' it will have greater autonomy and be a standalone vendor/systems integrator, but its hard to imagine that the Rakuten Group will be ceding control, even if it spins off via an IPO: What Rakuten does to put Symphony at arm's length will no doubt influence how others approach similar situations as they arise.

Rakuten Symphony currently counts corporate conjoined twin Rakuten Mobile as its anchor and prime reference customer, but it also recently announced a multi-billion dollar deal to build and run a greenfield, Open RAN network in Germany for 1&1, the initial construction of which is imminent as well as having a number of other smaller engagements around the world. (See German operator 1&1 to build greenfield Open RAN network with Rakuten.)

Where the long-term market for Rakuten Symphony lies is in selling its Open RAN expertise to existing mobile operators as they start to try out the disaggregated mobile network architecture and also selling to private network operators: What the deal with Dish shows is that Symphony isn’t just selling a soup-to-nuts end-to-end package (as it is with 1&1), but is also offering individual specialist tools that can be integrated with other cloud-native components that boast open APIs, and that’s the kind of business Symphony will want to strike in the coming year to build confidence and trust in the international operator community.   

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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