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Service Provider Cloud

The telco-cloud trend continues as Bell Canada, Google wed

The trend for cloud providers and telcos to throw in their lot together has gathered more momentum, with Bell Canada and Google now tying the knot.

And, interestingly, this arrangement seems to involve not just uploading a stray file or two, but "shifting critical workloads to the cloud," and a "multi-year partnership," as Bell Canada put it in the announcement.

Just if you're catching up on this series, Dish decided to plonk its whole telecom network into Amazon Web Services in April.

The UK's Vodafone made similar moves with Google Cloud the next month.

So Bell Canada – which is, after all, Canada's largest telco – is hardly the first or last telco to move huge chunks of its network into cloudland.


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For telcos forced to spend big in 5G rollouts and struggling to up their sales in cut-throat mature markets, moving network functions into the public cloud holds out promises of big savings.

Though this case is slightly more interesting, inasmuch as Bell Canada just last month said it would use AWS's Wavelength technology for edge applications.

Bell Canada is meanwhile aiming to cover 50% of Canada's population by the end of the year (it is currently on 30%), while its broadband acceleration program cost it $1 billion in new capital in the first quarter of 2021, its CEO Mirko Bibic said in April.

Storm clouds a-coming

In the last few weeks, Bell Canada's US cousin AT&T has said it will move its 5G core over to Microsoft's Azure but build out its 5G edge services with Google Cloud.

Microsoft has drawn on its background with AT&T, dating back to a $2 billion agreement in 2019, to build out its Azure for Operators product and go after the core network business of telcos worldwide.

At the time, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said it was a fundamental shift for the company, becoming "public cloud first" and relying on data centers owned by other companies to run its business.

Meanwhile Google's platform, Google Anthos, has turned out to be especially well suited to telcos that want to plump for this kind of multicloud approach.

Spain's Telefónica has, for example, partnered with both Google Cloud for edge and Azure as its "strategic" cloud partner.

Anthos was designed to let users run Kubernetes (a container-orchestration system which Google designed) and other workloads in different cloud environments.

And in March 2020, Google honed Anthos into its own hard pitch for the cash-strapped telco market with its Anthos for Telecom.

Google's pitch is more software-centric. Microsoft appears to be focusing more on co-developing 5G use cases together with operators. AWS, with its advantages in being public cloud's biggest player, is targeting lower-latency edge business with its new Wavelength and Outposts services.

Googling cloud providers

For Google, bagging Bell Canada comes on the heels of signing a ten-year deal with Canada's second-largest telco, Telus.

Telus is strongest in the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

Google Cloud had previously ratcheted up a "strategic partnership" with Telecom Italia in deals in November 2019 and March 2020.

Heavier use of telcos' data didn't necessarily translate into more revenue, says Amol Phadke, Google Cloud's managing director of telecom solutions.

The huge data usage of the last year created a capital-expenditure burden as telcos started to modernize their infrastructure, but for all that their revenue still stagnated, he says.

The trend is clear, but it all raises the question of where it eventually leaves telcos.

With big tech increasingly providing telcos with infrastructure-as-a-service, perhaps we will all be working out the implications of moving to a world where telcos are interesting platforms running on (other people's) cloud.

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— Padraig Belton, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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