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How DISH Wireless Built a 5G Network with Cloud-Native Data Streaming

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DISH Wireless generates an exabyte of data per day—more data that the company can process and understand using legacy infrastructure. These massive volumes of network data hold the key to unlocking powerful Industry 4.0 use cases across industries like retail, manufacturing, and automotive.

These kinds of edge and Internet of Things (IoT) use cases—from predictive analytics to real-time monitoring and more—are often undermined by the limitations of traditional telco infrastructure.

Brian Mengwasser, Vice President and Head of Marketplace and App Design at DISH Wireless, shared how cloud-native and data mesh architectures are poised to change the future of communications in a recent webinar with Confluent

“In the history of connectivity or telco, we often think of bulky, proprietary systems. We’ve now been able to show that telco workloads can run in a much more lightweight manner—on the cloud, at the edge… When [connectivity is] working really well, you don’t see it. It becomes democratized and ubiquitous in a very seamless and easy-to-consume way.”

Traditional telco infrastructure has kept networking data in a black box, with no interface for developers to troubleshoot network failures or customize connectivity.

To overcome these limitations, DISH Wireless decided to take advantage of the scalability and real-time messaging capabilities of Apache Kafka®. Now, the telco company has built a completely new kind of network—one that delivers data products as APIs so developers can customize connectivity for their apps’ needs, unlocking new use cases and accelerating enterprise innovation.

Learn more about how organizations like DISH Wireless are unlocking the full potential of their data with streaming data pipelines.

Why Build a Data Mesh on a Cloud-Native Data Streaming Platform

Three years ago, DISH Wireless set out to build a wireless connectivity platform from the ground up. Adopting Confluent Cloud allowed DISH Wireless to gain cloud-native data streaming capabilities and focus on building a 5G network using data mesh principles—without taking on the operational burden of self-managing open-source Kafka.

Using Confluent, DISH Wireless has been able to build a programmable network that:

  • Decentralizes data ownership and implements federated governance to deliver high-fidelity network data to its customers

  • Democratizes access to trustworthy data products through telco APIs 

  • Accelerates insights and innovation for customers and their developers

Taking this approach was critical for creating a programmable open-RAN (O-RAN) network that would allow developers and organizations to combine best-in-class components to, in essence, build their own network. 

Additionally, DISH Wireless was able to take advantage of the benefits of Kora, the cloud-native Kafka engine that powers Confluent Cloud. Ensuring this network was cloud-native from the start has been critical to provide developers with a flexible data platform that not only allows them to customize connectivity but also have confidence in its performance and reliability.

How DISH Wireless Connects Apps and Devices With Streaming Data Pipelines

Whether facilitating communications for operational or customer-facing use cases, monitoring networks in real time requires continuously ingesting, processing, and sharing massive volumes of data.

In the telco space, data infrastructure is responsible for facilitating communications across every level of the data stack. This can involve everything from operation support systems and monitoring of network components to customer-facing services and applications. 

How a data-in-motion platform connects apps, networks, and infrastructure.

Telco providers handle among the largest volumes of data—they need to ingest all the log and telemetry data and then process all the data they use in real time to facilitate proactive monitoring and even predictive analytics.

Data streaming with Kafka allows organizations like DISH Wireless to implement event-driven architecture that connects the various systems involved—from real-time to batch systems or APIs—via a highly flexible and scalable integration layer.

Those qualities enable a level of resilience at scale that is critical for enabling modern app communications that deliver the reliability, speed, and real-time insights today’s developer needs.

Together, Confluent Cloud’s cloud-native capabilities and enterprise-grade tooling—including data governance, stream processing, and data sharing—have allowed DISH Wireless to combine data from its network stack and data-dependent applications to create trustworthy APIs developers can leverage. 

Reference architecture: DISH Wireless as a data product factory for the enterprise

Business Outcomes—How the DISH 5G Network Enables Industry 4.0

DISH Wireless has used streaming data pipelines to build the first smart, wireless network on Confluent Cloud. As a result, the company has been able to:

  • Take advantage of virtualized infrastructure and microservices architectures to deliver highly flexible, scalable, and resilient network services 

  • Combine best-in-class network components that are compatible with O-RAN to accelerate innovation

  • Operate a distributed architecture across heterogeneous environments to unlock connectivity and computing at the edge

  • Implement a multi-tenant, API-first approach that allows leading enterprises to extend their networks from any cloud to any device

As of June 2023, DISH Wireless has expanded coverage of its cloud-native 5G O-RAN network—powered by innovative technologies like Confluent—to more than 73% of the United States. 

As the company continues to scale its intelligent connectivity platform, enterprise customers will be able to leverage DISH Wireless partnerships to:

  • Facilitate communications across marketplace apps and systems

  • Meet ultra-low latency requirements with cloud-native networking that extends across hybrid cloud infrastructure all the way to the edge

  • Leverage automation to implement telemetry insights from network monitoring

How DISH Wireless leverages partnerships across heterogeneous environments

What’s Next for DISH Wireless and Confluent

With Confluent Cloud at the core of its connectivity platform, DISH Wireless is able to readily build streaming pipelines that make its 5G network data instantly accessible to developers.

How streaming pipelines deliver consumable and trustworthy data products

DISH Wireless expects to see data products become central to the app communications its new Smart Network™ facilitates. The ability to stream, process, and share trusted data in real time unlocks promises to unlock connected data streaming use cases for DISH Wireless customers in:

Retail: DISH Wireless provides a data platform with high availability and visibility, which simplify onboarding for the numerous partners and merchants in the retail supply chain. These capabilities help drive operational efficiency during manufacturing, distribution, sales, and returns processes. Confluent Cloud facilitates communication between order management systems, distribution and fulfillment centers, and physical and ecommerce stores. As a result, logistics, sales, and returns data can be updated in real time to feed business-critical applications and data lakes.

Manufacturing: With Confluent Cloud and DISH Wireless, customers can use real-time analytics and machine learning to implement a smart factory use case. Implemented on Amazon Web Services (AWS), the data gathered from the factory floor is collected via a single data pipeline with end-to-end integration in real time. Then, low-latency processing—including filtering, aggregations, and model-scoring for anomaly detection—happens in AWS Wavelength. Kafka-native Cluster Linking replicates the relevant data from Wavelength to Confluent Cloud in the local AWS region while sharing data with Amazon Sagemaker for ongoing model training.

Automotive: Confluent Cloud and a cloud-native telco infrastructure can also serve as the foundation for smart mobility applications and automotive solutions. Combined with MQTT (a publish-subscribe network protocol designed for IoT devices) and Confluent Cloud, a cloud-native telco infrastructure unlocks use cases that demand high throughput and low latency, such as driver safety recommendations and asset tracking. Data from automotive vehicles—from customer data to route details and truck schedules—stream in real time to Kafka clusters in Confluent Platform located at the network edge. Those clusters can then be integrated with backend IT systems and replicated to local AWS regions for processing in AWS Wavelength using Confluent Cloud’s built-in Cluster Linking. As a result, DISH Wireless can support real-time capabilities like location tracking, over-the-air software updates, and even preventative maintenance.

Unlock Your Data’s Full Potential With Streaming Pipelines

The immediate access to data that DISH Wireless provides its customers with Confluent Cloud has become key to creating and maintaining a competitive advantage today. With streaming data pipelines, organizations can implement the data mesh they need to unlock valuable use cases faster.

Discover how streaming pipelines solve the technical challenges with legacy point-to-point data pipelines in the ebook, Transform Your Data Pipelines, Transform Your Business: 3 Ways to Get Started.

  • Zion Samuel is a writer on the Brand Marketing team at Confluent. Prior to Confluent, Zion has spent several years writing for organizations in various technology and healthcare sectors.

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