MWC: Microsoft expands 5G edge network offerings through Azure

Microsoft announced a range of new carrier infrastructure offerings through Azure, including services for 5G private enterprise networks, at Mobile World Congress this week, as part of a move to strengthen the position of the company as a partner to the telecommunications industry as 5G and edge computing deployments progress. .

The headliner is Azure for Operators, a variation of Microsoft’s Azure cloud services designed to help telcos manage their network core in a more unified way than before, combining key workloads such as RAN, core and OSS/BSS (operations support/business systems support) management on a single software platform. The company also announced Azure Operator Distributed Services, a containerization platform for some 60 network functions across 15 different equipment vendors.

The latter system is currently operational on AT&T’s network cloud platform, a demonstration of the close working relationship between the two companies. The telecom giant said last year it had moved its core network operations to the Azure cloud and announced ahead of MWC that its private 5G offerings would use Azure for core management software and edge computing. – consistent with Microsoft’s announcements of a new Azure private 5G. basic and enhanced mobile edge computing support in the form of public MEC.

Leverage Azure for private 5G networks

Beyond just using Microsoft’s software for its own retail network, part of AT&T’s decision is to leverage Azure as a way to easily offer private 5G as a service. The idea here is to allow enterprise customers to purchase private 5G coverage for a given area through AT&T or Microsoft, and allow providers to simply “turn on” the connectivity, allocating bandwidth from what is already available. to the new customer.

The announcements are a sign that Microsoft intends to continue with its plans to leverage 5G as a way to play a bigger role in enterprise networks, according to Bill Menezes, principal analyst at Gartner.

“Microsoft has never been into network infrastructure in the past,” Menezes said. “[Today’s moves]however, are a continuation of the strategy that [it] and other hyperscalers have continued for the past two years.

The range of these private 5G services is likely to be limited, added Menezes, who noted that Wi-Fi and other legacy wireless technologies aren’t going away anytime soon. The target market is more for specialized applications, such as companies with large manufacturing facilities or those who want to track vehicles over a large area.

“I talk to a fair number of companies that say private mobile networks, 4G or 5G, will make sense for our warehouse or our manufacturing facility, but we’re still going to want Wi-Fi,” Menezes said. “This relationship helps bridge the gaps between these technologies.”

Preview versions of new Azure 5G core and edge features are available now by contacting Microsoft, and AT&T’s private 5G edge program is in a similar preview phase, although no retail availability date is available. was announced at the time of publication of this article.

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