At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona two years ago, Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky touted AWS’ work with Swisscom. He announced that Swisscom had selected AWS as its preferred public cloud provider for its enterprise IT. And he said Swisscom would also work with AWS to build its 5G core in the cloud.
Fierce Wireless touched base with Swisscom today to check on the status of that partnership.
The carrier has been offering non standalone (NSA) 5G since 2019, meaning that its radio access network (RAN) sites are upgraded to 5G, but its core network is still based on 4G and is run in Swisscom’s private cloud.
“5G is bread and butter for us already,” said Marc Düsener, executive vice president of Mobile Network & Services at Swisscom. The carrier is taking its time, working with AWS, to transition its core to standalone (SA) 5G. Swisscom has determined there’s no rush for SA 5G because the operator is able to serve all its current customer use cases with its NSA 5G network.
It doesn’t want to just “lift and shift” its current software over to AWS. It wants to transform everything to cloud-native and run its IT services as well as its network functions in a completely different way from the past, when it relied on dedicated appliances.
Ultimately, it plans to operate in a hybrid cloud environment, tapping its own private cloud as well as the AWS public cloud.
“The real benefit is about changing our paradigm, moving from a telco to a tech co,” said Düsener. “We have a clear plan, which I will not disclose. But there’s no demand that we cannot fulfill as of today. We’re utilizing the time to optimize how we do cloud native. It’s like a greenfield deployment for us.”
Rather than starting with its core network, Swisscom has moved some less critical internal applications to the AWS cloud. "Moving our enterprise IT from private to public cloud is the heavy lifting we do today," said Düsener.
That’s been Swisscom’s main focus since announcing its work with AWS.
It’s also working with its key supplier — Ericsson – to make sure everything that’s moved to AWS works with Ericsson’s technology.
Swisscom is also training its own employees on cloud-native technology because they will have to understand it to maintain things that continue to run in the carrier’s own private cloud.
In terms of SA 5G, Swisscom’s next step will be implementing dual mode 4G/5G as a cloud-native instance, which can be run in a hybrid way across Swisscom’s private cloud and the AWS public cloud. Ultimately, the Kubernetes container management system will manage all the instances.
Why does Swisscom want to work with AWS?
Düsener said public cloud offers elasticity. In the past, operators had to build their networks for peak capacity. But much of the time a lot of network resources sit idle. As a customer of AWS’ public cloud Swisscom will pay per use.
A lot of what Swisscom is doing sounds similar to Dish Wireless’ efforts to build a greenfield 5G network based on cloud native principles. Düsener said Swisscom does have conversations with Dish.
Düsener touched briefly on open RAN. He said Swisscom is not currently using open RAN technology because it wouldn’t get the same performance and energy savings it currently gets. But he’s optimistic about the future of open RAN.