AT&T clarifies that Microsoft 5G cloud deal does not impact FirstNet service, security
AT&T created a stir in the telecom community by announcing plans to migrate its 5G mobile network to the Microsoft Azure cloud, but the carrier giant clarified that the move will not change the way in which operates and manages the FirstNet nationwide public-safety broadband network.
“AT&T will continue to operate its network and retain its customer relationship, including the FirstNet network and services,” according to an AT&T statement that was provided yesterday in response to inquiries from IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“FirstNet’s dedicated, cloud-native network functions will continue to operate on-premise in AT&T datacenters. AT&T will continue to operate and manage the FirstNet network and services and continue to support and meet all FirstNet contract requirements, including J10 security requirements.”
AT&T has announced that FirstNet supports more than 2.2 million connections for more than 16,500 public-safety subscribing agencies. With more than 90% of the contracted buildout for FirstNet complete, AT&T officials have expressed confidence that the LTE-based first-responder system deployment will be completed by the March 2023 deadline.
In the strategic alliance with Microsoft that was announced Wednesday, AT&T committed to moving its 5G mobile network to Microsoft’s flagship telecom offering, Azure for Operators, during the next three years. Microsoft is acquiring AT&T’s carrier-grade Network Cloud platform—upon which AT&T’s 5G core network has run since the carrier launched 5G in 2018—and Microsoft will gain access to AT&T intellectual property and technology expertise to bolster the Azure for Operators cloud service, according to an AT&T press release about the deal.
“This strategic alliance provides a path for all of AT&T’s mobile network traffic to be managed using Microsoft Azure technologies,” according to the AT&T press release. “The companies will start with AT&T’s 5G core, the software at the heart of the 5G network that connects mobile users and IoT devices with internet and other services.
“Bringing existing and future network workloads to Azure for Operators will enable AT&T to increase productivity and cost efficiency while focusing on the delivery of large-scale network services that meet its customers’ evolving needs.”
Members of the AT&T Network Cloud platform engineering team will be offered positions at Microsoft, according to the AT&T press release. Andre Fuetsch, AT&T’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, said the carrier’s commitment to virtualize more than 70% of its network functions and utilize cloud technologies
“AT&T has one of the world’s most powerful global backbone networks, serving hundreds of millions of subscribers,” Fuetsch said in a prepared statement. “Our Network Cloud team has proved that running a network in the cloud drives speed, security, cost improvements and innovation. Microsoft’s decision to acquire these assets is a testament to AT&T’s leadership in network virtualization, culture of innovation, and realization of a telco-grade cloud stack.
“The next step is making this capability accessible to operators around the world and ensuring it has the resources behind it to continue to evolve and improve. And do it securely. Microsoft’s cloud expertise and global reach make them the perfect fit for this next phase.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but AT&T believes it can “substantially reduce engineering and development costs” by using Microsoft’s hybrid and hyperscale infrastructure, according to the AT&T press release. Microsoft immediately assumed responsibility for the software development and deployment of AT&T Network Cloud when the deal was announced, according to the AT&T press release.
Jason Zander, Microsoft’s executive vice president for Azure, said he believes Microsoft’s Azure for Operators provides a compelling service for telecom carriers.
“With Azure, operators can provide a more flexible and scalable service model, save infrastructure cost, and use AI [artificial intelligence] to automate operations and differentiate customer offerings,” Zander said in a prepared statement. “Through our collaboration with AT&T, Microsoft will expand its telecom portfolio to support operators with a carrier-grade cloud that provides seamless experiences across Microsoft’s cloud and the operator’s network.