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Dish hails 5G open RAN provisions in NDAA

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024 includes provisions for military installations of private networks based on open Radio Access Network (RAN), a positive development for open RAN and specifically, Dish.

The new NDAA language requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a strategy for deploying private wireless networks based on open RAN architecture to military installations. It also authorizes $179,278,000 for research, development, test and evaluation for “Next Generation Information Communications Technology (5G).”

“This is a positive development for our national security and the future of wireless technology,” said Jeff Blum, EVP, External and Legislative Affairs at Dish, in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Department of Defense to help implement these provisions and bring the security and interoperability of O-RAN networks to our military service members across the globe.”

Both the House and Senate have passed the $886.3 billion defense policy bill, which is expected to be signed by President Biden.  

While much of the talk about open RAN lately has been around AT&T’s selection of Ericsson to head its efforts, Dish built its 5G network from scratch based on open RAN principles and has the DoD in its sights.

Dish’s sister company, Hughes Network Systems, made headlines when it was awarded an $18 million contract from the DoD to deploy a standalone 5G network at the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island in Washington state.

Earlier this year, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Whidbey to commemorate the 5G private wireless open RAN network. With Hughes Network Systems, which is an EchoStar company, the network incorporates Dish’s spectrum holdings with Hughes’ satellite internet connection and network security management capabilities, providing a 5G private network and edge cloud.

Dish + EchoStar  

Next up for Dish is to get its merger with EchoStar over the finish line. Executives have said they expect the deal to close by year’s end.

Dish and EchoStar announced a merger agreement on August 8, in what’s essentially a recombination of the companies, which split in 2008. They amended the agreement on October 2, with Dish becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar once all the regulatory approvals are ascertained.  

The FCC last week issued a public notice announcing its approval for the deal, noting that Ergen would own more than 90% of the voting stock and about 54% of the equity of the re-combined company and would continue to control the licenses and authorizations at issue, so there’s no substantial change of ownership or control.

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