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BT picks Canonical Ubuntu to build 5G core

Canonical will help BT and EE deliver new services to end-users more quickly

BT has selected Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack on Ubuntu to sit at the heart of its next-generation, cloud-native 5G core network. This will help it to increase capacity to keep ahead of user demands as EE’s 5G network rolls out, and bring new services to the network quickly and cheaply.

Canonical will provide an open source virtual infrastructure manager (VIM) as part of BT’s ongoing network functions virtualisation (NFV) programme and to aid its transition to a cloud-based core.

“Canonical is providing us with the ‘cloud-native’ foundation that enables us to create a smart and fully converged network,” said BT Group chief architect Neil McRae. “Utilising open source and best-of-breed technologies will ensure we can deliver on our convergence vision, and enable a world-leading 5G and FTTP [fibre-to-the-premises] experience for our customers.”

Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth added: “BT has recognised the efficiency, flexibility and innovation afforded by an open architecture, and realises the value of such an approach in enabling its delivery of new 5G services. We are delighted to be working with them to deliver the foundation to this approach, which will underpin BT’s 5G strategy.”

The trend of telcos turning to open source for their NFV projects is already well established, and OpenStack is proving a well-trodden path, with Vodafone using an OpenStack-powered cloud operating system from Huawei, while Singapore’s StarHub is using Red Hat’s variant.

BT’s use of OpenStack software will enable it to separate network hardware from software, turning core network components into applications that can be developed and upgraded more quickly. The separation also lets different applications share hardware across BT’s datacentres, which should make the network more resilient and scalable.

Coupled with higher bandwidth, lower latency, and expanding 5G coverage through EE, BT said it would be able to deliver a more responsive network that fulfilled the promises of both 5G and full-fibre broadband for customers – enabling real-time mobile gaming, augmented reality or 4K video.

It also serves as a “vital step” in BT’s wider convergence of network technologies – first announced in 2018 – which is bringing together fixed, mobile and Wi-Fi into an experience it claims will be seamless for users.

The telco said that in the future, it would also now be able to introduce developments such as ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC), network slicing, and download speeds running into multiple gigabits per second (Gbps).

Read more about core networks

  • The 5G core network will support millions of devices that need high-speed communication and data processing. Learn what other capabilities are required for 5G deployment.
  • Network functions virtualisation can virtualise both datacentre and branch office network services. But a couple of special cases, like virtual switches, require clarification.

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