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Nokia inks Radio Access Network collaboration deals with Microsoft, AWS, Google

The 5G prog rock supergroup nobody asked for

Nokia has been busily making deals with the cloud giants to connect their computing platforms to its Radio Access Network (RAN) via the magic of 5G.

As well as its former beau Microsoft (don't mention the phone thing), Nokia has also been chatting with Google and AWS with a view to integrating Nokia's Cloud RAN and 5G support into some of the edgier cloud technologies.

For Google, this means integrating Nokia's 5G vDU (Virtualised Distributed Unit) and 5G vCU (Virtualised Centralised Unit) with Google's edge computing platform, running on Anthos.

And Amazon? The plan is to get Open RAN, Cloud RAN and Nokia's other technologies up and running with AWS Outposts, adding 5G connectivity to the AWS toolbox, and giving Nokia direct access to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and the Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS).

Base station antenna for mobile communication, made in the form of a 5G symbol, on the roof of the building. 3d illustration.

UK mobile network EE plumps for Nokia to provide that all-important 5G RAN equipment


The first step will be validating Nokia's 5G vDU on AWS Outposts using EKS before moving on to the vCU. The final step will be a full end-to-end proof of concept running on AWS "where end enterprise users can leverage 5G for use cases such as an industrial application."

Because 5G is very much not a consumer-only technology, as noted by Dell Global CTO John Roese in January.

The increasingly promiscuous telecoms kit provider also announced an agreement with Microsoft to plug its hardware into Azure, targeting processing at, or close to, the edge with applications such as robotics, gaming or mixed-reality targeted by the initiative. While Microsoft's mixed reality ambitions might make for a neat keynote, it is more likely those enterprises looking for a way to shunt data around in a low-latency and high-throughput fashion that will pay closest attention.

Executives at the cloud giants were delighted with the collaborative possibilities. Google's head of Technology for Telecom Products, Bikash Koley, reckoned the tie-up would "enable business transformation at the network edge." Dave Brown, veep at Amazon EC2, AWS, anticipated that the additional options afforded would "solve for the challenge of CI/CD, automation, and network orchestration by using a common framework of tools across Core and RAN."

As for Yousef Khalidi, Azure for Operators at VP at Microsoft, the benefit would be in the numbers. Khalidi observed that the collaboration and example use cases would "provide operators with choices on how the best adopt cloud technology in concert with their 5G updates to drive new revenue streams, reduce cost and future proof their network investment."

Boris Renski of FreedomFi said of the deal: "This marks the continuation of a trend of telecom and enterprise cloud infrastructure blending together and large vendors within both ecosystems reacting to that trend.

"Enterprises adopting 5G is an opportunity for the cloud vendors like Azure and AWS to get their foot into the door of telecom infrastructure in a big way and potentially displace some of the incumbents."

Renski said that Microsoft has been among the more "aggressive movers" in the area "with a series of acquisitions like Affirmed and MetaSwitch", adding: "The next wave will be about open source getting added into that equation. Much like we've seen with Kubernetes and the cloud-native ecosystem around it being fundamental to enterprise cloud adoption, cloud-native telecom projects like Magma will be instrumental to the evolution of 5G infrastructure."

Microsoft and Nokia may not have made phones together for a good few years. However, the companies (as well as Nokia's other new friends) do see a way to earn a buck or two in the future via the forever almost-here allure of 5G. ®

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