MWC 2022: AT&T looks to the cloud to gain edge in 5G

Leading US network provider reaches out to communications industry ecosystem to strengthen next-generation infrastructure offer, encompassing edge and private networking, cloud and 5G massive MIMO technology

In a show of strength of its capability to deliver next-generation solutions across industries, AT&T has announced a series of 5G-focused partnerships and product launches designed to address the changing needs of service providers and the changing nature of the industries in which they operate.

Working with comms platform provider Rakuten Symphony, AT&T is aiming to enhance solutions within the Rakuten Symworld platform to accelerate network planning and deployment in greenfield and brownfield environments.

Symworld is designed to offer one-touch access to a suite of next-gen network software apps that can modernise and automate any mobile network. It enables industrialised automation and data-driven solutions for planning, designing, deploying, operating, securing and maintaining new and existing networks at the speed and scale of the cloud.

The companies aim to develop and bring to market solutions through the platform by drawing on technologies, experience and expertise currently used for widescale network deployments by AT&T in the US and Rakuten Mobile in Japan.

Explaining the need for their cooperation, the companies noted that today’s operators are building their 5G networks differently to any previous generation. As the telecoms industry transforms, with the large-scale introduction of cloud, open architectures and software and supplier diversity, Rakuten software, enhanced with AT&T innovations, will be deployed with the aim of empowering operators across the globe to plan, deploy and operate at scale in this cloud-native and open era.

Going forward, the two companies intend to continue collaborating to develop new capabilities and offer additional solutions to mobile network operators across the globe to simplify, digitise and automate their mobile network deployments.

The deal with Rakuten came just days after the leading US comms provider announced that it had entered into a partnership with Microsoft with the aim of making private 5G networks smarter, simpler and more flexible for businesses.

In another key partnership, the operator has extended its business relationship with IBM that has existed for over 20 years to help enterprise clients transform. AT&T and IBM have created simulated environments for enterprise clients to physically experience the power of AT&T’s connectivity with hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) technology from IBM.

The firms say businesses across all industries – including the public sector, manufacturing and financial services – can tap into this collaboration to quickly and securely innovate and tackle challenges facing industries, such as supply chain disruptions, cyber threats and ransomware, and the general demand for frictionless services in the world of 5G. 

Recognising the demand from new user experiences in the 5G-advanced era will require greater uplink performance from networks, AT&T revealed work with Nokia’s Bell Labs to develop distributed massive multiple input, multiple output (DmMIMO) technology which can significantly increase uplink capacity and speeds in 5G networks without requiring an overly complex solution.

DmMIMO allows devices to use signal propagation to multiple cells or antenna panels in a network when establishing a link, thereby turning noise into a useful signal and increasing the uplink throughput. The data transmission is pieced together from multiple antenna panels and cell sites through distributed baseband processing. The processing load between the cell site radio units and the central processing unit is split in a novel way, reducing the fronthaul capacity to cell sites and offering the ability to lower costs.

Nokia is collaborating with AT&T on the validation of DmMIMO and testing the proof-of-concept technology in AT&T’s labs. Nokia’s Bell Labs’ DmMIMO simulations are said to have demonstrated increases in 5G uplink capacity between 60% and 90% compared to similarly configured systems with a single panel. The partners say while other techniques come at the expense of downlink capacity, DmMIMO would produce sizable increases in uplink capacity without sacrificing performance.

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