AT&T is Moving its 5G Mobile Network to the Microsoft Cloud

Posted on June 30, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud with 28 Comments

Microsoft and AT&T announced today that AT&T is moving its existing and future 5G mobile networks to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft will also acquire the Network Cloud technology and workforce from AT&T as part of the deal.

“AT&T has one of the world’s most powerful global backbone networks serving hundreds of millions of subscribers,” AT&T executive vice president and chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch says. “Our Network Cloud team has proved that running a network in the cloud drives speed, security, cost improvements, and innovation.”

The deal will provide Microsoft with access to AT&T’s intellectual property and the technical expertise it needs to grow Azure for Operators, its telecom offering. And it will bring real-world production 5G workloads to Azure for Operators, the software giant says.

AT&T will continue to operate its network and retain its customer relationships, of course. But by leveraging Microsoft’s “hybrid and hyperscale infrastructure,” AT&T says it will substantially reduce engineering and development costs, while providing it with early access to new Microsoft’s cloud, AI, and edge technologies.

Microsoft, meanwhile, will become responsible for the software development and deployment of AT&T’s Network Cloud effective immediately. And it will port AT&T’s existing network cloud to Azure over the next three years.

No financial terms are provided.

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Comments (28)

28 responses to “AT&T is Moving its 5G Mobile Network to the Microsoft Cloud”

  1. dallasnorth40

    $3 trillion, here we come!

    • locust_infested_orchard_inc.

      Some bullish investors anticipate Microsoft doubling it current $2 trillion market capitalisation within this decade. Some even expect Microsoft to leapfrog Apple in net worth, and to totally outpace Apple.

  2. jamesb17

    Will it make my "5Ge" network better also?

  3. scottcc

    Where I live AT BEST on AT&T when there's not congestion, I get MAYBE 3-4mbps down. No lie. And where I live there is literally no DSL or cable or fiber options. My options are 1) 56.6k modem via old AT&T copper line buried ~25 years ago, 2) ViaSat/HughesNet Satellite (which I had for a couple years, w/ 600+ms latency and bandwidth caps) or 4) AT&T's "fast" 4G network that at best provides 720p YouTube quality streaming WHEN there's not too many people on the nearby tower.

    5G is a joke, and I still never got full 3G speed on any device ever when it was out, nor have I received 4G LTE speed on any device ever where I've lived for 6+ years, and I very much doubt 5G will do anything either. So AT&T and Verizon and TMobile infrastructure upgrades are virtually pointless to tens of millions of Americans.

    • Nic

      There is always so much talk about the theoretical speeds you can get from these networks. Every story conveniently forgets to mention that speed is also dependent on the backhaul transport layer underneath. You're super fast to the tower? Cool, but the fiber infrastructure beyond that may be lousy.

    • retcable

      Sadly, you are not an outlier in this. The carriers have never fully rolled out or provisioned any "G" generation of their services before moving on to the next big thing. 3G never lived up to what the carriers bragged that it could do, and neither did 4G or HSPA or LTE or LTE+, and certainly 5G has been a HUGE boondoggle up till now, with low-band giving a same-as or worse experience than LTE, while millimeter-wave is only available on 5-6 blocks of 5-6 major cities, outdoors ONLY with not even a leaf of obstruction between your device and the transmitter. Mid-band promises to help this situation a bit, but it has very limited transmission range, and again with the new mid-band spectrum, here we are with a totally new type of spectrum that will be rolled out to "select cities" for many years, drip by drip, before it ever comes to your (and my) area.

    • trparky

      What about Starlink?

      • scottcc

        "What about Starlink?"

        I had ViaSat for 2 years and it was a contract, so I was stuck with them. I could deal with the latency (600ms was atrocious, but doable, even as a developer who worked remotely), and while the download speeds were good on streams and stuff (5-12mbps down), the bandwidth cap was insane. Like...5-10GB/mo. I had to wait until 12pm PST (I'm on CST)-5am PST to down unmetered downloads. Luckily as a work from home developer I could be a night owl and do big pushes around that time, but what a nightmare. And from what I've read of StarLink, you better have NO obstructions (even a rogue tree branch) because if you do, the signal outright dies. Also, I'm not big on buying $500 for equipment or whatever the early buy-in cost is if I can't get 100% refund if the service is just trash. Easier for me to just buy an AT&T prepaid unlimited plan, use PDANet and FoxFi key from Play store to get unlimited tethering to a Windows PC, and hope I can do what I need to with that. I'm not going to move/relocate for slightly better internet.

      • mefree

        I'm sure he would if he could, still not available I don't believe in the US. I could be mistaken but I hadn't heard of a US launch yet?

        • retcable

          There is no general availability of Starlink in the US yet. There are a few people in the far northern edges of the US who have received beta testing units and posted videos of their experiences on YouTube. Some have worked great while others report the gaps in service because of no satellites overhead. Starlink has only launched 1900 of their proposed 40,000 satellite constellation, and are only launching 60-120 satellites per month, so it is going to take a LONG time before the service is a significant option across the country.

  4. krusador

    Cue the Amazon lawsuit...

  5. crunchyfrog

    Future headline: Microsoft's Azure outage is affecting hundreds of millions of AT&T customers globally as the software giant struggles to get back online.

    • chronocidal

      Don't you just love introducing single points of failure into our essential infrastructure?

  6. hgriffith

    My guess is, the analytics and data on traffic and usage? Or in other words, the apps and database running the show.

  7. richfrantz

    This post makes me feel stupid.

    • locust_infested_orchard_inc.

      May I suggest you regain your smartness/prudence by buying lots of $MSFT now for long-term investment. You'll be laughing in decades to come, whilst enjoying your retirement.

      'richfrantz' shall become 'filthyrichfrantz'. ?

  8. jchampeau

    What does it even mean to move a 5G mobile network to the cloud? A wireless network is made up of mostly physical things like radios and backhaul links and RF moving through the air and end-user devices like phones or laptops.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It means that their "datacenters" will be virtual now and hosted by a third-party exclusively, and not physical and/or hybrid as before.

    • bassoprofundo

      It's all SDN (Software-Defined Network) related. Rather than custom, dedicated ASICs doing network functions, the work gets done in software on commoditized hardware. You still have hardware like antennas and interconnects, of course, but you still get rid of a lot of networking hardware. This stuff is already done in-house on AT&T's "Network Cloud". It's just moving that to run on Azure instead and sending people and IP to Microsoft.

    • anoldamigauser

      It means AT&T needs cash to service the debt built up buying the content providers they later sold for much less than they paid. In this case, they got cash for the sale and offloaded some salaries.

      Not sure what Azure for Operators is, I had no idea Microsoft wanted to become a telecom, but whatever.

      Based on the inability of AT&T management to properly value assets, whether they are buying or selling, I will assume that Microsoft will have the better of this deal.

      • bls

        I'm not sure about Azure for Operators, but guessing that it's an industry-specific solution that MSFT is now hawking to all the operators. Build solutions and sell them into the target industry. Old, tried, and true strategy.

    • berniem

      My exact thoughts when I seen the headline: How will a cloud support cell calls?

    • jnbck

      That's exactly what I came to try to find out.

  9. red.radar

    What a deal. Department of defense and now this.

    What a renaissance from being a windows company. Most companies don’t have a second act after their founding product fades.