Microsoft cloud platform enables telecoms to build 5G network

Microsoft has launched a new cloud platform aimed at enabling telecom operators to build 5G networks faster, reduce costs and sell customised services to business clients.
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The new platform will be on Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud computing business, and the company says it will reduce infrastructure costs, give flexibility to add services on demand and use artificial intelligence to automate operations.

Microsoft will support operators as they evolve their infrastructure and operations using technologies such as software-defined networking, network function virtualization, and service-based architectures.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, told Reuters that it could cut costs by 30 percent-40 percent in some cases.

An additional 30 5G networks went live, bringing the total up to 114 5G networks globally in Q2 2020. The number of commercial 5G network is expected to nearly double to 204 by the end of 2020, according to data from TeleGeography.

There are now almost 138 million 5G connections globally as of Q2 2020, according to data from Omdia. There are 190 commercial 5G device models available globally as of the end of August, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

Research firm Omdia projects 5G connections will reach 236 million globally by the end of 2020, of which North America will account for 10 million connections.

Microsoft in 5G

The developer of Windows and Office software entered the rapidly growing 5G business after its acquisition of cloud networking companies Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch earlier this year.

“The telco DNA was obtained through those acquisitions and we went from a small number of engineers in this space to literally hundreds of engineers,” said Khalidi. “On the other hand, the foundational pieces, including edge compute, we have had in a pipeline for many years.”

The company has already partnered with companies ranging from telecom operators such as Verizon and AT&T to network equipment firms such as Samsung and Mavenir to either use or sell the new platform to clients.

Microsoft’s move will increase competition for 5G service vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson, said CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire.

Vendor revenues in the telecom network infrastructure market declined 1 percent to $53.6 billion in Q2 2020, for the third straight quarter, according to MTN Consulting.

Operators will face challenges, including high capital expenditure (Capex) investments, an increased need for scale, automation, and secure management of the massive volume of data it will generate, said Jason Zander, executive vice president, Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft has one of the largest networks that connect with operators at more than 170 points of presence and over 20,000 peering connections around the globe, putting direct connectivity within 25 miles of 85 percent of the world’s GDP.

More than 200 operators have already chosen to integrate with the Azure network through our ExpressRoute service, enabling enterprises and partners to link their corporate networks privately and securely to Azure services.