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Increasing competition and ever-growing demand for mobile, always-on services challenges operators to find new strategies to grow profits and gain a competitive edge. To succeed, operators also need to embrace three critical trends:

  1. Changing the economics of their service model.
  2. Finding new revenue and shareholder value with 5G.
  3. Driving digital transformation, consolidation, and automation.

To address these trends, operators are actively seeking ways to transform their infrastructure, embrace 5G, and evolve their business.

To support operators in capitalizing on this opportunity, we launched the Azure for Operators initiative in September 2020, acting as a trusted partner to provide cloud and edge computing technology and solutions. We are building a platform on the foundation of a carrier-grade cloud and enhanced networking to bring the power of Microsoft’s technology to the operator’s edge. When these capabilities are combined with our broad developer ecosystem and deep business-to-business partnership programs, the result is a unique environment that will help operators accelerate their ability to monetize their network capabilities. 

The advent of 5G technology offers network operators unprecedented opportunities to expand their scale and range of services to enterprise customers in particular. Beyond faster data services for smartphones and 5G networks, other emerging technologies will deliver capabilities that can support critical business operations while enabling high-speed, low-latency communications, and connectivity for intelligent devices. Successfully seizing this opportunity requires operators to complement their networks with cloud and edge computing.

Microsoft can uniquely provide operators with technology and cloud solutions to realize the opportunities of a new service model, adoption of 5G, and digital transformation.

Lists the six values Microsoft brings to operators with the Azure for Operators initiative

Our guiding principles

Azure for Operators is built on six fundamental principles:

  1. We are bringing the power of cloud to future-proof your network, driving down costs and opening new revenue streams.
  2. We will partner—you own your customers, brand, ideation, and experiences.
  3. We remain a platform business—our focus is on moving workloads to a carrier-grade cloud.
  4. We will meet you where you are—on-premises, at the edge, or in the cloud.
  5. Support the ecosystem—we will work closely with providers of radio access network (RAN), core, cloud-native functions (CNFs), and operations support systems (OSS) or business support systems (BSS) to integrate and innovate.
  6. It is a journey—we will act as a trusted partner to help you transform at a pace that makes sense for your business.

We join operators on a shared journey, meeting them wherever they are on their digital transformation path. Together, we can unlock the potential of 5G, enabling operators to offer a range of new services such as highly reliable low-latency connectivity, network slicing, and scalable applications to transform industries and communities. Indeed, our partnering with operators is key to connecting the intelligent edge with the intelligent cloud and to creating new transformative experiences for people and organizations everywhere, across every industry.

How 5G will transform experiences and services

We see a convergence of the virtual and physical world as modern networking capabilities are combined with cloud technologies. We will help enable operators to deliver pervasive compute, real-time action, and infinite customer experiences.

Shows Microsoft's vision for 5G that enable operators to deliver pervasive compute, real-time action, and infinite customer experiences.

There are a myriad of opportunities for innovation across industries, most notably in manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, transportation, workplace productivity, and retail. Scenarios for 5G include:

  • Maximizing the value of the edge.
  • Deploying and optimizing next-gen networks.
  • Monetizing the capabilities of 5G.
  • Maximizing existing investments while minimizing operating expenses.
  • Streamlining business support systems.
  • Transforming customer experiences.

To bring these scenarios to life, Microsoft has an established and experienced developer community that is well-versed in building solutions in the Azure environment and the experience that comes from processing more than five billion cognitive services transactions per month, supporting over six billion IoT devices, and supporting more than one million machine learning experiments monthly. Microsoft is actively working with the application community to ensure a thriving ecosystem for edge applications and network application programming interfaces (APIs). 

New technology capabilities

The industry standardization of service-based architecture exemplifies how 5G will be more “cloudified” than any previous mobile technology generation. Beyond running 5G network functions in the cloud, there are more significant opportunities when networks are integrated with hyper-scale cloud services such as artifcal intelligence (AI), machine learning, security, analytics, and IoT processing. When combined with ubiquitous compute and opened to a large community of application developers, new capabilities for enterprises and end-customer experiences will emerge. Azure for Operators makes real the promise of analyzing and acting in near-real-time”•a true fusion of the physical and virtual worlds.

Low-latency compute through Azure Edge Zones

We have established local extensions of Azure to provide compute, containers, and services closer to customers. Azure Edge Zones allow local, low-latency access to Azure services for immediate data ingestion and strong processing power. Operators can connect to a fast, global backbone as all data transit between the Edge Zones and Azure regions remain on the Microsoft global network. Additionally, operators can provision and manage these edge services and workloads through the Azure portal.

Direct application access to the programmable network

With Azure for Operators, Microsoft is partnering with operators worldwide to create an ecosystem of application-aware, edge solutions.  Developers can boost application performance and provide the best and most secure user experience when they access critical data from the network.  Additionally, fast and scalable applications for mobile subscriber services and connected devices can run across Azure and operator networks. We have established a single pane of glass to provision and manage Azure services at the edge, further enhancing the ease of management and scalability for application access.

Private cellular networks with the power of the cloud

By fusing cloud compute with multi-access edge computing (MEC), Arc-enabled Azure Edge Zones are our architecture to accomplish improved latency, speed, and security. Leveraging a private cellular network, industrially focused solutions such as robotics and IoT can enjoy the best of the cloud with the required network privacy. Customers can deploy Virtualized Network Functions such as routers, firewalls, and software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) gateways across Azure Edge Zones and regions. This architecture has broad industry support from a rich ecosystem of implementation and integrated technology partners already available for collaboration.

Meeting the needs of operators

Microsoft recognizes that operators have unique requirements for reliability, resiliency, security, observability, and performance to deliver real-time communications services. Operators need control over critical network functions and want the ability to expose programmable interfaces to application developers. By adopting Azure for Operators, they are enabled to create new revenue-generating services and move existing services to the cloud to reduce costs and extend service life with a trusted cloud partner.

Azure for Operators service stack

Azure for Operators is available as a service stack, including global transport, edge platforms, network functions, business intelligence, and cloud solutions. Elements can also be selected individually and include products and solutions from Microsoft and our ecosystem partners. We are committed to supporting the ecosystem by working closely with RAN, Core, CNF, and OSS or BSS providers to integrate and innovate.

Shows the breadth and depth of the Microsoft service stack that Azure for Operators offers, including global transport, edge platforms, network functions, business intelligence, cloud solutions, and extensive partner ecosystem.

Moving forward in our journey together

Ultimately, Azure for Operators is about your customer, your service, powered by our technology. We are combining our understanding of networking and compute with our partner ecosystem to enable endless opportunities. With Microsoft, you can achieve scale, operate hybrid seamlessly, monetize with new business models and do all of this with a trusted partner.

Azure for Operators enables customers to achieve scale, seamlessly operate hybrid, monetize with new business models and do all of this with a trusted partner: Microsoft.

With our hybrid cloud platform, a broad selection of cloud services, and ecosystem of partners plus application developers, we help operators generate new revenue streams from their significant investments in 5G networks while extending the useful lifespan of existing services. Working together in partnership, Microsoft and operators can combine the best of both the cloud and Telco worlds to seize the 5G opportunity and address the many challenges of today’s operator business. We will act as a trusted partner to help you transform at a pace that makes sense for your business.

Learn more

Are you ready to learn more and engage with others in your organization to take the next step with us? Download and share our Azure for Operators strategy eBook and contact us.

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