AT&T and Google Cloud Expand 5G and Edge Collaboration
Just one week after outsourcing their 5G SA/Core network software and IP to Microsoft (Azure public cloud), AT&T and Google Cloud announced new initiatives across AT&T’s 5G and Google Cloud’s edge computing portfolio, including AT&T’s on-premises Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) solution, as well as AT&T Network Edge capabilities through LTE, 5G, and wireline.
For over a year, AT&T and Google Cloud have been developing edge solutions for the enterprise. Now, the two companies are taking the next step to deliver transformative capabilities that help businesses drive real value and build industry-changing experiences in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, entertainment and more — with the ability to use Google Maps, Android, Pixel, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and other solutions across Google for more immersive customer experiences. For example:
- Enabling video analytics services to help businesses across industries with theft prevention, crowd control, and queue prediction and management.
- In retail: Streamlining and automating inventory management, connecting brick-and-mortar, and ecommerce and backend systems for near real-time visibility into operations.
- In healthcare: Scaling access to services like telehealth-based therapy, using AR and VR for remote care either from patients’ homes or at an onsite facility.
- In manufacturing: Accelerating operations with remote support and quality control checks at plant locations, and optimizing bandwidth usage by streaming video on the edge rather than on-device.
- In entertainment: Enhancing in-venue experiences for concerts and sporting events, with solutions ranging from immersive AR and VR experiences, smart parking and ticketless entry, to contactless food and souvenir payment.
The companies are also working together to evaluate how network APIs could optimize applications, using near real-time network information at the Google Cloud edge. If successful, this would allow them to optimize the user experience at the edge and drive meaningful outcomes for businesses.
AT&T Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) with Google Cloud combines AT&T’s existing 5G and fully managed MEC offering with core Google Cloud capabilities, including Kubernetes, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data analytics, and a robust edge ISV ecosystem. With the solution, enterprises can build and run modern applications close to their end users, with the flexibility to manage data on-prem, in a customer’s data center, or in any cloud. All this can help customers to increase control over data, improve security, lower latency and provide higher bandwidth.
AT&T Network Edge (ANE) with Google Cloud will enable enterprises to deploy applications at Google edge points of presence (POPs), which will be connected to AT&T’s 5G and fiber networks. In this low-latency compute and storage environment, businesses can deliver faster, more seamless enterprise and customer experiences. AT&T and Google Cloud are focusing on a multi-year strategy to bring the solution to 15+ zones across major cities, starting with Chicago this year. We expect to roll out the solution next in Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, and San Francisco.
“By combining the power of AT&T 5G and Google Cloud technologies, we are helping enterprises create new customer experiences and business services that were previously impossible,” said George Nazi, Vice President, Global Telecom, Media and Entertainment Solutions, Google Cloud. “Together with AT&T, we are committed to enabling our customers to build and deliver next-generation applications, whether on-premise or on AT&T’s leading mobile network.”
“With premises-based 5G and network edge computing, we give our customers even greater control of where their data goes and how they use it – at higher speeds and with lower latency. These capabilities allow businesses to deliver unique experiences to their customers, today and into the future,” said Rasesh Patel, Chief Product and Platform Officer, AT&T Business. “We’re bringing forth a new era where the latest technological advancements, including 5G and edge computing, make it possible to transform, innovate and prepare for whatever the future holds.”
“5G, cloud services and edge compute each have a tremendous amount of promise as standalone technologies,” says Jason Leigh, research manager for 5G and Mobile Services Research at IDC. “But coupling these three as complimentary, enabling technologies both accelerates and extends the promise of digital transformation in many more business settings.”
You can learn more about AT&T’s work in on-premises edge computing here, and network-based edge computing here. To learn more about Google Cloud’s work driving transformation and 5G adoption, visit here.
AT&Ts collaboration with Google extends beyond business and reaches the hands of the consumer. Together, the two companies are combining the power of AT&Ts 5G and fiber networks with Google cloud gaming platform.
Comment: It’s quite interesting that AT&T has outsourced its 5G SA core network to Microsoft Azure, but is using Google Cloud for edge computing for its 5G and fiber optics networks. AT&T claims a cohesive cloud strategy, but the network operator’s various alliances with cloud providers are confusing, according to Kathryn Weldon, research director at GlobalData. AT&T previously announced 5G edge partnerships with IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Deloitte.
The different goals AT&T hopes to achieve with each cloud or edge vendor and how they will jointly provide specific aspects of edge computing for each remains unclear, Weldon said.
“There have been so many announcements regarding operators’ relationships with hyper-scalers for 5G edge that it would be helpful to get really specific about use cases. The immersive experience examples are a bit generic. It’s time for actual customer use cases to be cited, even if they are only in trial,” she wrote in a report. Google Cloud and AT&T said joint customers will gain near real-time access to features packed into Google’s cloud and some of its most popular services.
“While the new initiatives leverage more Google capabilities, the announcement begs the question as to what things the partners have been working on for the last year. It isn’t clear why the listed Google elements could not have been brought in before,” Weldon added.
AT&T 5G SA Core Network to run on Microsoft Azure cloud platform
4 thoughts on “AT&T and Google Cloud Expand 5G and Edge Collaboration”
I’m excited to learn more about the availability of APIs for purposes of building modern entertainment experiences, as mentioned in this article. Having access to APIs for AR and VR apps will be amazing. And really set the stage for what kinds of applications 5G can bring to the public’s everyday awareness.
Hello Bret and thanks for your comment. You should realize that each cloud service provider has their own set of APIs. So if you build AR/VR apps for Google Cloud, they won’t work on Amazon AWS or MSFT Azure.
AT&T Pushes Software as Differentiator
“We have another muscle to build here, which is how do we begin to work on software to differentiate our products and services in a way that makes our product better than what our competitors can do,” he added.
The ironic and perhaps most confounding issue for AT&T there is that it just sold its network cloud technology to Microsoft, effectively abandoning software and internally developed technology that provided clear potential differentiation from its competitors.
If AT&T wants to be known as a software pioneer, it sure has an odd way of showing it. Wireless networks are moving infrastructure to the cloud, and operators are unlikely to create separation from competitors without internally developed software designed for that burgeoning architecture.
Stankey didn’t disparage the value of the assets recently sold to Microsoft, but broadly described AT&T’s many business sales and related activities as decisions designed to regain focus and invest in segments where AT&T has the best chance to lead.
“I believe we’re in a moment in time that to be effective in markets right now — you can’t be average or OK,” he said. As such, AT&T is investing in what he described as “core infrastructure” and technology that supports the products it cares about moving forward. This involves removing clutter from its catalog of products, resizing the corporate structure of the business, and committing the entire company to develop and sell market-leading products, he explained.
“Where we are operating right now, we’re not perceived from a brand perspective of being the best in all cases,” Stankey said.
“The goal here is to work with the carriers,” explained Sunay Tripathi, Google’s new director and head of products for telecom and the “distributed cloud edge.”
Tripathi, who spoke at a 5G Future Forum event here, typified the new trend: He cut his teeth at Sun Microsystems before helping to found software-defined networking company Pluribus Networks. For the past three years, he was the CTO of Deutsche Telekom’s MobiledgeX. According to his LinkedIn profile, he joined Google in July. “We are rearchitecting a lot of the underlying network, and that creates a lot of opportunity,” Tripathi explained.
Google, Microsoft and Amazon have long played in the telecom industry as software, IT and cloud suppliers. And like most modern enterprises across all industries, mobile network operators have increasingly pushed their IT operations into the public cloud.
But during the past two years, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all begun developing cloud computing products specifically designed to host wireless providers’ network functions. Whether it’s Microsoft’s Azure for Operators or Google’s Anthos for Telecom, it’s intended to get network operators to put their crown jewels – their core network functions – into a hyperscale cloud.
And it’s something all three cloud companies are serious about, judging from their telecom hiring sprees or their acquisitions in the space. Microsoft, for example, last year spent an estimated $1.8 billion buying longtime telecom vendors Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks.
New ideas and new disruption
According to analysts, the entry of the public cloud hyperscalers represents a major new strategic turn in the industry, considering network operators have historically retained tight control over their networking systems. And though most have been moving toward cloud technologies they own and operate, few have agreed to run their networking software in a public cloud operated by a hyperscaler.
“In outsourcing the infrastructure to cloud providers, telcos risk losing control of different aspects of their network and technology roadmap over the long term,” warned analyst Frank Rayal of Xona Partners in a post to his website titled “How telcos outsourced their brains.”
Nonetheless, there are increasing indications that operators around the world are more than open to the idea. “The technologies that we will build [with the cloud] will let others consume our network,” explained Luciano Ramos, SVP of network development, planning and engineering for Rogers Comunications in Canada.
Indeed, AT&T recently announced it would transition its 5G core network operations into Microsoft’s cloud over the next three years. And Dish Network plans to run all of its network operations in the Amazon Web Services cloud.
According to Rakuten’s outspoken mobile chief, Tareq Amin, it’s ultimately necessary. He said he designed Rakuten’s mobile network in Japan to natively run in the cloud, and that it required a major shift in his team’s thinking. “I wanted to pick the right mentality” when staffing up Rakuten Mobile, he said. “It was easier to deploy cloud because the Rakuten people wanted to be open to new ideas,” he said. “They were open to new ideas and new disruption.”
Amin made his comments during a keynote address at the MWC LA show here. He made sure to point out that Rakuten Mobile in Japan now counts around 5 million customers, and boasts leading network metrics. It was essentially Amin’s victory lap after announcing his plan to build such a network just a few years ago, at the MWC Barcelona show in 2019.
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