Microsoft this week indicated that it’s working on private LTE with Rogers in Canada, and it has plans to work with other carriers on private LTE and private 5G networks.
Microsoft mentioned its work on private LTE, briefly, as part of a bigger announcement about the preview of its Azure Edge Zones. Microsoft is working with AT&T to bring ultra-low-latency edge compute to joint customers with its Azure Edge Zones. These are local extensions of the Microsoft Azure cloud.
But in addition, Microsoft also announced the preview of Azure Private Edge Zones. The company says these are “a private 5G/LTE network combined with Azure Stack Edge on-premises.”
As a start, Microsoft is working with the Canadian operator Rogers and its enterprise client Attabotics to use private LTE with Azure Private Edge Zones. Attabotics makes robots for fulfillment and distribution centers.
“In collaboration with Microsoft, Rogers is delivering new and innovative solutions with our Private LTE capabilities combined with Azure Edge Zones,” said Dean Prevost, president of Rogers for Business, in a statement. “Working with Attabotics, we’re enabling Canadian businesses to transform the traditional supply model with a retail e-fulfillment solution.”
Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Azure Networking Yousef Khalidi said in a blog post that Microsoft is partnering with an array of carriers, systems integrators and technology partners to launch a platform to support orchestration and management of customers' private cellular networks.
In addition, Microsoft is working with Vodafone on private 5G. “By combining Vodafone 5G and mobile private networks with Azure Private Edge Zones, our customers will be able to run cloud applications on mobile devices with single-digit millisecond responsiveness,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business, in the same Microsoft blog. “This is essential for autonomous vehicles and virtual reality services, for example, as these applications need to react in real-time to deliver business impact.”
Microsoft listed several other operators it’s working with for Azure Private Edge Zones, including CenturyLink, NTT Communications, SK Telecom, Telefonica and Telstra.
In addition to retail logistics and autonomous vehicles, some other use cases that Microsoft envisions for its Azure Private Edge Zones include private mobile connections for hospitals to take advantage of Azure technologies and smart factories with IoT.
Microsoft hasn’t done much in the wireless space, aside from some rural work with TV white spaces. But last week Microsoft bought Affirmed Networks, which sells virtualized mobile network solutions.
Affirmed Networks does not provide the radio access network infrastructure. But Affirmed can provide the virtual evolved packet core (EPC) technology to run a mobile network. In addition, it can provide operation support systems (OSS), business support systems (BSS), and lifecycle management software.