O2, Microsoft reveal plans to develop mobile edge capability for private 5G

Operator and IT giant O2 partners with Microsoft to trial the benefits of on-premise mobile edge computing in a private 5G network, paving the way for secure data management and enabling confidential information to stay on-premise at all times

With continual investment in the infrastructure driven by demand from mission-critical organisations, and with more spectrum being made available for enterprise uses, analysts are predicting a boom for private comms infrastructures in 2021 – and UK operator O2, in conjunction with Microsoft, has announced plans to attack this opportunity.

The Telefónica UK band has announced a partnership with Microsoft that will see a proof of concept (PoC) launched to “revolutionise” secure data management.

The PoC will deploy on-premise mobile edge computing (MEC) capabilities within a private 5G network, which the operator claimed is a new innovation in the UK.

O2 recently announced it had launched a private 5G Network initiative with Leonardo, a global high technology company in the aerospace, defence and security sector. This trial with Microsoft will be similar, but will involve MEC to broaden the use cases and benefits.

And the benefits could be very lucrative. In January 2021, research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted a boom for the private comms architectures for enterprises, lasting until 2024.

It calculated that revenue attributable to the sales of private LTE/5G infrastructure will grow from $945m (£695m) in 2019 to an estimated $5.7bn (£4.2bn) in 2024, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.4%. This includes aggregated spending on RAN, core and transport infrastructure.

In the new partnership, O2 will provide the secure private 5G network capabilities and a range of Industry 4.0 applications, and the computing service will be delivered via Microsoft Azure Private Edge Zones, bringing compute, storage and intelligence to the edge where data is created.

The partnership will also see O2 collaborating with Microsoft for Startups to support the startup ecosystem in developing new, innovative solutions on 5G.

The partners believe that the potential benefits of the trial are significant, combining secure, high-bandwidth private network capabilities with on-site low latency data storage, which will provide safer and more efficient data management.

“We’re incredibly proud of our track record of supporting business partners with innovative network solutions. This particular trial with the Microsoft Azure platform will provide secure and superfast capabilities that will maximise productivity and efficiency, as well as peace of mind,” said Jo Bertram, managing director of business at O2.

“We pride ourselves on having a secure 5G network and being champions of coverage and reliability, as recognised in industry awards.”

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice-president of Azure for operators at Microsoft, said: “Through our collaboration with O2, we will enable enterprises to leverage 5G to unlock new scenarios that accelerate digital transformation within their own private, on-premises environments.

“Combining Azure technology with O2 services is critical to bringing MEC to the enterprise edge, and we look forward to seeing customers leverage this platform to drive innovation across a broad range of information and operational technology applications.”

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