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Samsung will supply software and radios for Dish’s much-delayed 5G network

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Wow, look at that June coverage deadline coming up fast

Dish Network has recruited Samsung to help make its cloud-based 5G a reality.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Dish Network owes us a 5G network — that was the linchpin of the deal that allowed T-Mobile to buy Sprint, bringing our wireless carrier options down to three. With Dish’s first deadline fast approaching, the company has announced a new partner: Samsung. The company joins Dish as a vendor while it attempts to build a 5G network from scratch.

Dish isn’t building just any old 5G network, either. It’s basing the network on a newer, cloud-based technology called O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network) that relies on off-the-shelf (rather than proprietary) hardware. Samsung is supplying vRAN (Virtualized Radio Acc... you get it) software and radio units to help make the whole thing work.

Dish promised the FCC it would cover 20 percent of the population with its new network by June of this year, which is a milestone on the way to ultimately covering 70 percent of the population by June of 2023. The project has been plagued with delays, and for those keeping score at home, June is next month. Dish’s last earnings call didn’t paint the rosiest picture of the network’s current status, either; as of February, the network was still in beta testing with friends and family in Las Vegas. Vegas has a lot of things, but it does not, in fact, include 20 percent of the US population within its borders.

Dish isn’t the first US-based network operator that Samsung has worked with. It previously helped Verizon expand its low-band Nationwide 5G with a technology called DSS, or Dynamic Spectrum Sharing. Let’s just hope that this new partnership with Dish produces better results than that venture did because the clock is ticking.