AT&T and Microsoft Enter 5G Cloud Partnership

AT&T and Microsoft formed a partnership in July to develop innovations in 5G, AI, and cloud computing. AT&T plans on moving its data storage to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and becoming a “public cloud first” company by 2024, with the goal of improving network capabilities, innovations for its customers, and giving power to its employees at the best possible price. In a deal that is worth more than $2 billion, Microsoft will use the 5G network offered by AT&T to develop edge-computing capabilities which can process data closer to the source instead of in a centralized location. The two companies have teamed up before working on innovations like drone tracking and blockchain solutions.

Last week, the pilot launch of this network edge computing technology was announced. According to CNN, a subsidiary of AT&T, this advancement should lead to both AT&T and Microsoft customers to benefit from the 5G network AT&T plans to complete mid-way through 2020. The 5G network edge computing technology is expected to be available in Dallas in early 2020, with other major cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles to follow as the year progresses.

Mo Katibeh, AT&T’s Business Chief Marketing Officer, said the companies expect developers and businesses to be early customers. He told CNN “If you’re a business, you can never be too fast or too nimble.” Microsoft and AT&T say the technology will allow for all sorts of improvements in technology and innovations including uses in self-driving cars, drone delivery technology, cloud gaming, and automated manufacturing.

Bill Menezes, an analyst for the research and business consulting firm Gartner, has been quoted saying that this new technology is “creating a lot of noise that plays on a lot of current buzzwords in tech,” and questions how useful this technology will be, especially right away. R.A. Farrokhnia, adjunct professor and Chazen senior scholar at Columbia Business School, questions whether businesses will want to spend billions of dollars to upgrade their 4G technology to work with 5G when they have already invested so much into the “perfectly good 4G equipment.”

According to CNN, 5G technology will have a greater impact on business customers than individual consumers. The partnership with Microsoft is expected to give AT&T an advantage over Verizon in the fight over 5G network dominance. 

This partnership is also expected to give an edge to Microsoft in the cloud computing marketplace, which is dominated by Amazon Web Services. Microsoft unexpectedly beat Amazon out for a $10 billion government contract in cloud computing in October; a decision which Amazon is fighting in court.

Meanwhile, the rollout of 5G networks has been complicated by the Sprint/T-Mobile merger and concerns over Chinese-manufactured 5G networking equipment.