New AWS CEO says AWS is talking to ‘virtually every telecom operator’

Adam Selipsky will be replacing Andy Jassy as CEO of AWS in Q3 2021. (screenshot from MWC 2021)

In case there was any doubt that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is making its presence known in the telecom world, AWS’ incoming CEO Adam Selipsky name-dropped a bunch of major telcos that the company is working with, during an MWC 2021 presentation.

Those telcos include Verizon, Vodafone U.K., KDDI, Telefonica, SK Telecom, Bell Canada and Dish. To put a fine point on it, Selipsky said, “We’re having similar types of conversations with really virtually every telecom operator around the world. Particularly, we see that around 5G networks, both ones that have already been deployed where AWS is being put in, as well as in some cases AWS being baked into brand new 5G networks.”

Selipsky will soon be replacing Andy Jassy as CEO of AWS. Jassy is being promoted to the big role of CEO of Amazon when Jeff Bezos becomes executive chairman of the board of directors on July 5. Selipsky was one of AWS’s first VPs hired in 2005. He ran AWS’s sales, marketing and support for 11 years. He left in 2016 to become the CEO of Tableau, which was acquired by Salesforce.

As part of its public relations blitz at MWC, AWS had Selipsky kick off an “AWS Virtual Village” with a presentation about the company’s work with telcos. And he also announced that Swisscom has selected AWS as its preferred public cloud provider for its enterprise IT. Swisscom will migrate a wide range of core applications to AWS, and Swisscom will also work with AWS to build its 5G core in the cloud.

AWS is also going to build a new availability region in Switzerland. Selipsky said availability zones can be thought of “roughly as data centers.” Multiple availability zones constitute an AWS region. “AWS has a whole bunch of regions around Europe and around the world,” said Selipsky. “And we’re very pleased to announce that we’re going to be building a new AWS region in Switzerland, which will be opening in the second half of 2022.”

Friends with telcos

The incoming CEO noted that AWS is already working with several major telcos. Some of these companies, such as Verizon and Vodafone, are using AWS Wavelength, which embeds AWS compute and storage at service providers’ data centers at the edge of the 5G network.

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Others, such as Telefonica Germany, are using AWS Outposts, which is a fully managed service that brings AWS infrastructure into the telco’s on-premises infrastructure.

And then there’s Dish, which has gone all-in with AWS, choosing the cloud provider to host its RAN and mobile core for its new 5G network.

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Selipsky’s presentation about AWS’s work with telcos was slick. There’s been a lot of talk about the wisdom of letting the big cloud players into telecom networks. Selipsky positioned AWS as a way for telecom owners to save big on capital expenditures.

“Obviously the telecom industry has traditionally thrived on connectivity services, and that is a very technically complex as well as capital intensive exercise,” he said. “The industry is built on not only the networks but then of course the data centers and the infrastructure in the data centers. And all of that infrastructure, as many of you know, is very costly. We are really excited to be able to bring the cloud model to telecom operators, which really allows them to turn that model on its head.”

He said AWS would allow telecom operators to “essentially get rid of that capex and have opex.” He touted the cloud model as a way to deploy flexibly and scale with elastic capacity both up and down at any particular moment in time.

No one would argue that the cloud model offers great benefits. And certainly telecom operators would be happy to “get rid of” their capex. The only hitch is that once operators become dependent on AWS, or any cloud provider, they might be subject to elastic scaling of their opex, based on the whims of the cloud providers.

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But Selipsky stressed, “There are really powerful cost savings. There’s an avoidance of capex and the ability to move faster. And that really enables telecom operators to focus on what really matters, which is building innovative customer services for their end customers.”

However, many people in the telecom world have expressed concern that the ultimate goal of the cloud players isn’t to help telcos serve their enterprise customers, but to actually poach those enterprise customers for themselves and leave telcos as “the dumb pipe.”

Selipsky also said that AWS is working with all the major telco vendors. He cited Amdocs, Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. “We’re committed to working with all of the ISVs that telecom operators find to be important,” he said. “Really, we view ourselves very much as enablers, trying to help our customers innovate."