AT&T, Microsoft team on private 5G edge deployments

Feb. 25, 2022
Collaboration with Microsoft integrates the AT&T 5G network with Microsoft's Azure private multi-access edge compute (MEC) platform, and builds on existing edge work between the two companies.

In furtherance of its aim to accelerate deploying private cellular networks for businesses, universities, and the public sector, AT&T announced that it is now looking to launch private 4G/5G wireless networks as an integrated platform with connectivity and applications to enable low-latency services at the edge.

To facilitate this aim, AT&T in a statement announced "the valuable ability to roam beyond the geographical boundaries of the AT&T private network and still stay connected through the AT&T public network." Dubbed the AT&T Private 5G Edge offering and currently under development with Microsoft, the service leverages Microsoft's Azure private multi-access edge compute (MEC) platform to help deploy these private wireless networks rapidly across radio spectrums, including CBRS.

The operator said AT&T Private 5G Edge is designed to be an integrated platform providing connectivity and embedded applications through a single platform with the use of CBRS spectrum and/or AT&T spectrum where needed to meet customer requirements. AT&T added that it is "looking to provide high-end computing and graphical processing power with the 5G network through a self-install capability."

As pointed out by Tad Brockway, corporate vice president, Azure for Operators at Microsoft, "Secure private 5G networks enable organizations to deliver latency-sensitive applications. Together with Microsoft, AT&T is streamlining the integration of the multiple elements private wireless solutions require, simplifying the application creation environment and accelerating the speed of deployment."

"Moving from Wi-Fi to dedicated and secure 5G connections with edge computing capabilities opens possibilities in retail stores, manufacturing plants, restaurants, schools, and more," added AT&T's statement.

AT&T said the company is still talking to customers in different vertical markets to figure out together how this technology can best be applied, but that early potential use cases may include:

  • Manufacturing – Where cameras and AI tools can assist in everything from robotic assembly to "event detection" – such as when a worker has been injured or a fire has started – and then alert first responders or activate fire suppression systems almost instantly.
  • Car dealerships – Where a car manufacturer can create a dedicated cellular network within a dealership to help buyers manage the set-up process for vehicle diagnostics and other connected features, rather than tying up the dealership's Wi-Fi network.
  • Medical Clinics – Where video sensors with embedded AI capabilities could be quickly deployed at pop-up locations to monitor patients for fevers just based on their appearance, without requiring a staffer to test them manually.

Rupesh Chokshi, vice president product strategy and innovation for AT&T Business, concluded, "With AT&T Private 5G Edge, we are enabling customers to create and deliver innovation faster – with simplicity, flexibility, security, and high-speed wireless connectivity. This solution opens the door to entirely new applications and use cases we haven't even imagined yet. The combination of 5G and edge compute can utterly transform how businesses are run, no matter the size, and we're proactively engaging with those businesses to identify the right compelling opportunities. Our collaboration with Microsoft is exciting because it combines technology with an adaptable business model and brings innovation to life for any customer."  

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