5G, the fifth generation of cellular technology, is poised to unleash a new wave of innovation, enhanced user experience, and the next era of connectivity. With 5G technology, cloud, edge computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) can take a leap forward to transform industries and create opportunities that weren't possible until just a few years ago.
Here’s a look at Microsoft’s (MSFT) initiatives and efforts in the 5G technology space.
Microsoft has been working on integrate and enhance its cloud, edge computing, and IoT capabilities with 5G technology by entering into partnerships and acquisitions. “5G opens new frontiers with enhanced mobile broadband up to 10x faster, reliable low-latency communication, and very high device density up to 1 million devices per square kilometer.”
In July 2019, Microsoft and AT&T entered into a strategic alliance to deliver innovation with cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 5G. AT&T was the first to introduce mobile 5G in the U.S. towards the end of 2018. The partnership is aimed at enabling solutions to drive enterprise capabilities for companies around the world. In November 2019, they announced the opening of select preview availability for Network Edge Compute (NEC) technology, which weaves Microsoft Azure cloud services into AT&T network edge locations closer to customers. A limited set of select customers in Dallas were provided access to NEC, with more locations scheduled for select customer availability in 2020.
In March, Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Affirmed Networks to deliver new opportunities for a global 5G ecosystem. “Previous generations of wireless networks have been based on purpose-built hardware. We believe that with innovation in software and by making use of broadly available cloud computing platforms like Microsoft Azure, operators can deploy and maintain 5G networks and services more efficiently, more cost effectively, more rapidly, and more securely,” said Yousef Khalidi, Corporate Vice President, Azure Networking.
The list of Affirmed customers includes some of the well-known mobile carriers and service providers, including tier 1 operators such as AT&T, SoftBank, Telus, Etisalat, Turkcell, and Vodafone. Affirmed Network has recently been selected by Netmore Group’s UK subsidiary — Netmore IoT Solutions Ltd — as supplier of Virtualized Core networks that support rapid growth in private 5G networks.
Also in March, Microsoft announced the preview of Azure Edge Zones with carriers, connecting Azure services directly to 5G networks in the carrier’s data center. This enables developers to build optimized and scalable applications using Azure and directly connected to 5G networks.
After completing the acquisition of Affirmed Networks in April, Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Metaswitch Networks in May. Microsoft contends that Metaswitch’s complementary portfolio of ultra-high-performance cloud-native communications software will further expand its range of offerings for the telecommunications industry. Metaswitch currently powers 750 fixed, mobile, and converged service providers worldwide.
5G is more than speed. It will allow immediate response by lowering latency and enable a smoother user experience. A study by IHS estimates that potential global sales activity across multiple industry sectors enabled by 5G could reach $13.2 trillion in 2035. It is projected that that 5G value chain could alone generate up to $3.6 trillion in overall aggregate revenue and support 22.3 million jobs in 2035.
Garter estimates the worldwide 5G network infrastructure spending to almost double in 2020, accounting for 21.3% of total wireless infrastructure, up from 10.4% in 2019. The global 5G services market size is projected to reach $41.48 billion by 2020 and will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.9% from 2021 to 2027.
“Our intention over time is to create modern alternatives to network infrastructure, enabling operators to deliver existing and value-added services – with greater cost efficiency and lower capital investment than they have faced in the past.” The move towards 5G has begun, and Microsoft is supporting and empowering it via the cloud.
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