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February 27, 2023

Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud bid to woo telcos at Mobile World Congress

The hyperscale cloud providers are looking to secure business from telecoms operators with new dedicated products.

By Matthew Gooding

Hyperscale cloud providers Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud have unveiled new products for telecoms companies as the Mobile World Congress trade show gets underway in Barcelona.

Mobile World Congress
Microsoft welcomes delegates to its stand at Mobile World Congress 2023. The company today launched new cloud tools for telcos (Photo by |Tech Monitor)

With the telecoms industry undergoing a rapid digital transformation thanks to the advent of 5G and software-defined networks, competition to secure business from operators is fierce. Microsoft and Google follow in the footsteps of market leader Amazon AWS, which announced a new service that will help telcos build communications networks on its platform last week.

Google Cloud products cater for next-generation mobile networks

Google Cloud says its trio of new products – Telecom Network Automation, Telecom Data Fabric, and Telecom Subscriber Insights – will offer communication service providers a unified cloud solution to help them build, deploy and operate networks that combine traditional and cloud-native elements, and a better way to process and analyse data.

“To succeed in a connected world, communication service providers are under enormous pressure to build and manage next-generation networks against rising capital and operational expenses,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud. “By applying cloud-native principles to network architectures, and accelerating subscriber growth through a holistic data management source, CSPs have the opportunity to bridge the gap between connectivity of today and connectivity of the future.”

Telecom Network Automation is a new way for CSPs to automate functions in the cloud, which Google says can improve time-to-market, multi-vendor interoperability, reduce error-prone configurations, and lower operational costs. Network operator Bell Canada is already using the technology in its 5G network.

Data Fabric and Subscriber Insights offer simplified ways to collect and store information, with the latter described as “an AI-powered product that helps CSPs extract insights using their own existing data sources in a privacy-safe manner”.

All three products are now available in private preview globally.

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Microsoft announces Azure Operator Nexus

Also at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft said it was launching the public preview of its Azure Operator Nexus which it says is a next-generation hybrid cloud platform.

It has signed up US network AT&T as an early customer. “AT&T made the decision to adopt Operator Nexus platform over time with expectation to lower total cost of ownership, leverage the power of AI to simplify operations, improve time to market, and focus on our core competency of building the world’s best 5G service,” said Igal Elbaz, senior vice president and network CTO, AT&T.

Microsoft is also building on its AI expertise, enhanced by its partnership with ChatGPT maker OpenAI, with two new automated products for telcos. Azure Operator Insights “enables the collection and analysis of massive quantities of network data gathered from complex multi-part or multi-vendor network functions,” Jason Zander, Microsoft’s executive vice president for strategic missions and technologies, said. “It delivers insights for operator-specific workloads to help operators understand the health of their networks and the quality of their subscribers’ experiences.”

Another new addition, Azure Operator Service Manager, helps CSPs manage services deployed across hybrid cloud sites. “Combined with consolidated management across Azure cloud and edge platforms, Operator Service Manager helps to accelerate operator service deployment,” Zander said. “Together, these new services generate insights from data to inform the configuration of the network – with changes tested thoroughly using Safe Deployment Processes.”

He added: “We are making them available to operators, NEPs, and SIs directly for managing workloads in operators’ networks, Azure, and hybrid environments. We look forward to the opportunities these new AIOps services bring operators in the future.”

The growing importance of telco cloud

Partnerships between cloud providers and network operators are likely to become more commonplace as networks are digitally transformed in the coming years. The size of the telecoms cloud market is expected to grow from $11bn last year to some $32bn by 2027, according to research from Markets and Markets.

Speaking to Tech Monitor last year, Ahmad Latif Ali, associate vice-president for European telecommunications at IDC, said mobile telcos “want to extend infrastructure and services to match the market demand and expectations of 5G”, meaning there is an opportunity for the hyperscalers to cash in.

“Cloud providers and hyperscalers are going to be key partners in this ecosystem to really enable the high bandwidth, low latency and high connection density of 5G,” Latif Ali said.

Read more: Nokia’s SaaS move could be impeccably timed

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