AT&T tests 5G and network edge computing with Microsoft Azure; Partners with Vodafone Business for IoT

AT&T  announced  at MWC 2019 that it is working with Microsoft on a proof of concept to integrate network edge compute (NEC) capabilities with its 5G network and Microsoft Azure cloud services.  The solution would be important for the industries and Internet of Things (IoT) use cases of retail, healthcare, public safety, entertainment, and manufacturing, AT&T said, as it would provide businesses with lower latency, access to high compute power, and network routing without needing on-premises hardware.

“We’re testing our ability to substantially reduce latency and improve user experience by deploying advanced cloud services in specific geographic locations closer to business sites. A fully-scaled deployment will give businesses access to compute power, lower latency and optimized network routing without the need for dedicated on-premises hardware.”  These advantages will be important for the low-latency cloud and IoT solutions used by retail, healthcare, public safety, manufacturing and entertainment.

Last month, AT&T* announced its approach to 5G for businesses, laying out three key pillars: mobile, fixed and edge computing.

“Our collaboration will pave the way to enable Microsoft Azure cloud services to connect to more customers and devices across the US through AT&T’s nationwide wireless network,” Microsoft corporate VP of Azure Networking Yousef Khalidi said.   “Our two companies are working together to achieve the low-latency connectivity needed for the explosion of devices and immense amount of data being created by computing at the edge,” he added.

AT&T is using drones to test the network edge compute capabilities with Azure, working with Israel-based startup Vorpal in its foundry in Plano, Texas.  Vorpal’s VigilAir product detects and geo-locates drones in real-time, which could be used by law enforcement agencies and airports.

“By running their VigilAir application using Azure cloud services delivered through the Plano AT&T test environment, and connecting their drone-tracking sensors using AT&T LTE and 5G networks, Vorpal could achieve the low latency and compute scalability required,” the carrier said.

AT&T expects to share more details about NEC services with Microsoft Azure later this year. NEC is part of AT&T’s broader edge compute strategy that also includes AT&T Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC).


Earlier at MWC 2019, AT&T announced it’s working with Vodafone Business on IoT applications for the automotive space, including safety, security, and entertainment.

“This alliance with Vodafone Business is a natural extension of our existing relationship,” said Chris Penrose, President, Internet of Things Solutions, AT&T. “We each have rich experience in connected vehicle technology.  By working together, we can innovate faster and help our global customers bring connectivity, entertainment and telematics to more vehicles across our respective footprints.”

“Our work with AT&T will benefit automotive manufacturers and their customers around the world as we simplify processes and provide a consistent experience to accelerate IoT adoption in this fast-moving market,” said Stefano Gastaut, IoT Director, Vodafone Business. “As technology complexity increases, this is the right time to make technology adoption easier for the automotive industry to help them achieve their business outcomes. This is the goal of this alliance.”

The two companies said they would develop connected car solutions across 5G and autonomous vehicle technology; vehicle-to-everything (V2X) capabilities; in-vehicle entertainment; connected car applications and services; global service quality models; and the intersection of connected cars and smart cities.

The companies will prioritize projects to enhance safety, security and entertainment capabilities. Key areas of focus will be:

  • 5G and autonomous vehicle technology
  • V2X capabilities (vehicle-to-everything)
  • In-vehicle entertainment
  • Connected car applications and services
  • Global service quality models
  • Connected car/ smart cities intersection

AT&T and Vodafone Business each provide connected car services and products for the automotive, fleet and insurance industries. They integrate electronic and telematics systems into complex vehicles, both at the point of manufacture and beyond. Together, the companies bring more than 50 years of experience in the automotive industry. And they collectively work with nearly 50 global automotive brands and connect more than 43 million cars and trucks on the road today.


6 thoughts on “AT&T tests 5G and network edge computing with Microsoft Azure; Partners with Vodafone Business for IoT

  1. The network edge is where it’s at!

    5G gets a ton of buzz, but the real focus should be on the business case. How will service providers make money with 5G? Juniper Networks CTO Bikash Koley says the answer is at the edge.

    “I do believe that edge compute will be a huge part of the monetization,” he said in an interview at MWC Barcelona. “5G allows high bandwidth and connectivity to the edge, which was not quite there with 4G.”

    And service providers “already have beach-front property,” he added. “They are sitting on central offices that are within milliseconds of most people in large cities that they really haven’t monetized.”

    Contrail, Juniper’s SDN portfolio, is the vendor’s edge play. The software portfolio that spans the enterprise data center (Contrail Enterprise Multicloud), the wide-area network (Contrail SD-WAN), the telco cloud (Contrail Cloud), and the edge — base stations, hub sites, and switching sites (Contrail Edge Cloud). It also has an open source version called Tungsten Fabric.

    Because these locations often have power and space constraints, Contrail Edge Cloud pushes data plane functions to the edge while keeping management functions centralized, Koley said. That centralized location can be a data center, or a public cloud. “We run a very simple, small, lightweight edge instance that is connected to the central control overlay where it shows up as part of the common cluster.”

    During Juniper’s most recent earnings report, CEO Rami Rahim said Contrail software sales increased more than 100 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, and more than 200 percent for the full year. Koley, at MWC, said more than 45 service providers worldwide are Contrail customers, and “most of the Tier-1 service providers are on Contrail.” These telco customers include Italy’s TIM, Telstra, NTT Communications, and AT&T.

    Juniper also remains committed to open source, and believes it will be key to advancing edge computing, Koley said. Contrail is based on The Linux Foundation’s open Tungsten Fabric project, and it continues to contribute to the foundation’s Akraino Edge Stack project. The company is also a premier member of the Linux Foundation’s new edge computing initiative called LF Edge.

    “The new standardization happens in places like Akraino,” he said. “Standards are not any more about defining what the interfaces are, what the protocols are. They are really making APIs work together and making the infrastructure work together. And it’s done in code. We are a very big believer of that and we remain committed to having Contrail completely open source in form of Tungsten.”

  2. AT&T is looking at using Microsoft Azure resources to bring network edge compute (NEC) capabilities into the AT&T 5G network.

    The carrier is testing if Azure can help reduce latency and improve the user experience with advanced cloud services deployed in specific geographic locations closer to business sites.

    According to AT&T, a fully-scaled deployment will give businesses access to compute power, lower latency and optimized network routing without the need for dedicated on-premises hardware, making it ideal for retail, healthcare, public safety, manufacturing and entertainment customers, among others.

    To advance the potential for NEC services, AT&T said it is creating a NEC environment at the AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas. There, AT&T said it will co-create new, solutions with enterprise and public safety customers. The AT&T team in Plano worked with the AT&T Foundry in Israel to identify a startup that could enhance their solutions via NEC. The collaborators identified Israel-based Vorpal Ltd. for that purpose and is now testing solutions with Vorpal.

    “We’re creating new ways for our customers to directly access a multitude of cloud options closer to where they do business,” said Mo Katibeh, chief marketing officer, AT&T Business, in a prepared statement. “Using the blazing speeds of our fiber, LTE and 5G mobile connections, we’re paving the way for how low-latency pathways to cloud services like Microsoft Azure can accelerate business transformation – for both enterprise and small business applications.”

    Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president, Azure Networking, Microsoft Corp. added: “Our collaboration will pave the way to enable Microsoft Azure cloud services to connect to more customers and devices across the U.S. through AT&T’s nationwide wireless network. Our two companies are working together to achieve the low latency connectivity needed for the explosion of devices and immense amount of data being created by computing at the edge.”

  3. 3GPP Release 16, when completed (early 2020?), will have the ultra low latency included. It is NOT available in any so called “5G” networks till then!

    Title: Study on physical layer enhancements for NR ultra-reliable and low latency case (URLLC)
    Status: Draft
    Type: Technical specification (TS)
    Initial planned Release: Release 16

    The follow key use cases were identified to be considered:
    – Release 15 enabled use case improvements
    – Such as AR/VR (Entertainment industry)
    – New Release 16 use cases with higher requirements
    – Factory automation
    – Transport Industry, including the remote driving use case
    – Electrical Power Distribution

  4. AT&T expands 5G+ network to California, Austin, Nashville, and Orlando

    Less than four months after launching a mobile 5G network in parts of 12 U.S. cities, AT&T today expanded the network’s footprint with seven additional locations. The expansion includes the carrier’s first four 5G offerings in the state of California, as well as single-city additions in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas.

    AT&T’s 5G+ coverage list now includes some of California’s most populous cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. The carrier has also added Florida’s most popular tourist destination, Orlando, plus the capitals of Texas and Tennessee, Austin and Nashville, respectively. As was the case before, AT&T says its service is available in “select areas” of the cities, rather than completely covering them.

    Unlike other carriers, AT&T is specifically marketing three different types of “5G” service. The company differentiates between 5G+ based on millimeter wave technology, a slower but nationwide blanket of 5G, and its controversial, lawsuit-provoking “5G Evolution,” which is actually just late-stage 4G technology using speed-enhancing features. Today’s expansions are all 5G+ specific.

    One notable omission from today’s list is Las Vegas, Nevada, which was on AT&T’s list of expected “early 2019” 5G+ cities last September. Its place appears to have been taken by Austin for the time being.

    AT&T currently offers 5G+ service using a single device: Netgear’s Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. Unlike rival Verizon, which is now offering an early 5G smartphone option online and in select stores, AT&T’s Nighthawk sales page still doesn’t have a “buy now” link, instead asking customers “interested in trying out the Nighthawk” to provide contact information for an email or phone pitch.

    Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G is expected to become available for AT&T’s 5G+ network this spring, while a subsequent Samsung phone will connect to AT&T’s 5G+ and 5G towers. LG’s less expensive V50 ThinQ 5G phone is not yet expected to become available for AT&T 5G customers.

  5. Spot on with this write-up on AT&T. I actually think this web site needs way more consideration and exposure. I’ll be back again to learn much more about telecom. Thanks for all your great IEEE Techblog posts.

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