LIVE FROM MWL UNWRAPPED: Igal Elbaz, SVP of technology and network services and network CTO with AT&T, dismissed different interpretations of a 5G core network deal with Microsoft Azure, insisting the operator had not given up any control of its platform.

During the first keynote on the final day of Mobile World Live’s October Unwrapped series, Elbaz was keen to clarify the details of its deal with Microsoft, struck in June 2021, to shift its 5G core network to Azure and sell its related platform technology to the cloud giant.

Elbaz said the platform itself was made of hardware AT&T procured, which was still being deployed in its data centres and central offices, and continued to be operated by the operator.

He added AT&T was still maintaining a multi-vendor mobility core, whereby it selected the vendors, and led the design and integration process.

“The only thing that really changes is the ownership of that network cloud software stack.”

Elbaz said it was important to make the clarification after suggestions the US giant had ceded control by making the deal with Microsoft.

“We have not given up any control,” he argued. “It’s fully operated by AT&T. We have full control of our mobility core.”

Tap into cloud scale
Addressing the rationale behind the deal, Elbaz claimed AT&T was the first to push the industry into virtualisation around seven years ago and, when it started, it was pretty limited “in terms of the network cloud software stack”.

With the move to 5G, it became clear continuing “to build a platform only for us was not the right direction”.

“We wanted to tap into the innovation, into the investment, into the scale of the cloud providers and the development that they’re doing and why they’re doing best, which is cloud platforms.”

Elbaz added AT&T had started the process to migrate customers into its standalone core and any operators which wanted to launch this had to do it with software running on a cloud platform.

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