July 13, 2021
Announced June 30, 2021 and titled “AT&T to run its mobility network on Microsoft’s Azure for Operators cloud, delivering cost-efficient 5G services at scale,” the deal is a nice shortcut for Microsoft to accelerate its Azure for Operators ambitions and a smart tactical move for AT&T to shift its focus to customers by eliminating a resource intensive non-core business task. Did I say running a 5G core is not part of a communications service provider (CSP) core business? No, I’m saying developing 5G core functions should not be considered as a CSP’s core business task; that way, the CSP can allocate resources to focus on developing customer centric applications for the upcoming plethora of 5G use cases, the large majority being in enterprises, Internet of Things (IoT) and private 5G networks.
Let’s get it straight: Microsoft is acquiring AT&T’s 5G core technology and expertise and is moving it to its cloud infrastructure. In my May 2020 Perspective titled “With its Metaswitch acquisition, Microsoft fogs the telco cloud business” I concluded “Microsoft won’t be a telco but will certainly shake up the telco cloud business.” Well, one year later, here we are: Microsoft is now the de facto world’s largest telco cloud player with a powerful 5G core platform offering entirely based on AT&T’s intellectual property and pioneering technologies from Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch—both pioneered the virtualization of mobile core networks in AT&T’s network; they started at the beginning of the last decade, each with a different angle but with the same vision of eventually running these virtual network functions (VNF) in the cloud.
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