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AT&T to move 5G mobile network to Microsoft Azure

Leading US operator to run its mobility network on leading cloud platform as it aims to deliver cost-efficient 5G services at scale, while network cloud technology will be deployed to gain competitive advantage through streamlined operations and service differentiation

Addressing the need to increase its productivity and cost efficiency in delivering large-scale network services to customers in an ever more competitive arena, particularly next-generation services, AT&T has entered into a strategic alliance with Microsoft.

The partnership has been created to provide a path for all of the operator’s mobile network traffic to be managed using Azure technologies. The companies will start with AT&T’s 5G core, the software at the heart of the 5G network that connects mobile users and devices with the internet and other services, and then bring existing and future network workloads.

In turn, Microsoft will gain access to AT&T’s intellectual property and technical expertise to grow its telecoms flagship offering, Azure for Operators, which is designed to help operators across the world deliver highly reliable, cost-effective and secure 5G services to consumer and enterprise customers. The companies said the move would bring real-world production 5G workloads to Azure for Operators.

Microsoft is also acquiring AT&T’s carrier-grade Network Cloud platform technology, which AT&T’s 5G core network has been running on at scale since the company launched 5G in 2018. The Network Cloud platform engineering team will receive offers to join Microsoft.

AT&T will continue to operate its network and retain its customer relationships. It is aiming to substantially reduce engineering and development costs by using Microsoft’s hybrid and hyperscale infrastructure. It also expressed confidence that early access to Microsoft’s cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge technology will provide the flexibility it needs to rapidly innovate and launch new services and customer experiences enabled by 5G.

“AT&T has one of the world’s most powerful global backbone networks, serving hundreds of millions of subscribers. Our Network Cloud team has proved that running a network in the cloud drives speed, security, cost improvements and innovation”
Andre Fuetsch, AT&T

“AT&T has one of the world’s most powerful global backbone networks, serving hundreds of millions of subscribers. Our Network Cloud team has proved that running a network in the cloud drives speed, security, cost improvements and innovation,” said AT&T executive vice-president and chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch.

“Microsoft’s decision to acquire these assets is a testament to AT&T’s leadership in network virtualisation, culture of innovation and realisation of a telco-grade cloud stack. The next step is making this capability accessible to operators around the world and ensuring it has the resources behind it to continue to evolve and improve – and to do so securely. Microsoft’s cloud expertise and global reach make it the perfect fit for this next phase,” he added.

Jason Zander, executive vice-president of Azure at Microsoft, said Azure enabled operators to provide a more flexible and scalable service model, save on infrastructure costs, and use AI to automate operations and differentiate customer offerings.

“Through our collaboration with AT&T, Microsoft will expand its telecoms portfolio to support operators with a carrier-grade cloud that provides seamless experiences across Microsoft’s cloud and the operator’s network,” he said.

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