‘Platform-company’ Vodafone signs five-year 5G and IoT edge-deal with Microsoft
Vodafone Business and Microsoft have announced a five-year deal on private 5G, edge computing, and IoT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The arrangement, extending a long-running partnership between the two, will see Vodafone Business sell the Microsoft suite of compute and storage functions, plus Azure-based IoT applications, with its own enterprise mobility, machine connectivity, and IoT telemetry services.
The duo are targeting remote working, IoT monitoring and tracking, and also industrial automation. They called it a global contract, with Vodafone offering to manage the various cloud and edge combinations. Quotes in the press releases highlighted work with SMEs in Europe and Africa, presumably in line with Vodafone’s own footprint; rollout is under way with European SMEs. It is unconfirmed whether they will go after enterprises in non-Vodafone markets. Vodafone Business said the deal marked a step on the road to being a “platform company” and a “SME champion”.
The pair described a co-creation strategy to combine on multi-access edge computing (MEC), covering 5G connectivity – plus, perhaps, LTE and LTE-based cellular IoT (NB-IoT, and LTE-M in future) connectivity – in Vodafone’s network edge and in Microsoft’s regional edge (points of presence). The collaboration will also include on-site private LTE and 5G networks, with core networking managed either on site or in the MEC edge, in conjunction with either publicly-licensed or privately-held spectrum (and network slicing down the line).
Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure functions and applications will be distributed into the network edge and enterprise edge in tandem with the 5G network operations. Vodafone’s business unit is presented, in the press release, as the channel to market for their combined wares. Its customers will have direct access to Microsoft 365, Teams Phone System, and Microsoft Azure, it said.
They have kicked off with a mixed reality project, using Microsoft’s software and HoloLens 2 headset and Vodafone’s “dedicated edge computing services”. The work is focused on an Industry 4.0 case in a manufacturing plant; they reckon their solution allows engineers to “complete maintenance procedures in half the time” and new trainees to learn to operate machinery remotely by following step-by-step instructions.
“This immersive technology… [helps] speed up assembly, bringing greater precision and enhancing efficiency on the factory floor. With instant access to experts at any time, and from anywhere, the accuracy of tasks is improved and the hands-free nature of this technology means workers can follow instructions and advice while still paying full attention to their physical surroundings; supporting the increasing challenges around safety and compliance.”
The press statement said: “The agreement… will provide customers with seamless cloud experiences that are flexible, secure, easy to use and future ready – supporting organisations as they transition operations to run outside of legacy infrastructure with professional and managed services that bring the network, cloud and security together to secure and optimise application performance.”
Mark Allinson, strategy and development director at Vodafone Business, said: “For businesses to become truly digital, they need networks, cloud and security to work in harmony. With Microsoft, we are providing solutions that can be rapidly deployed and easily managed to support new ways of working and constantly improve business processes. This is another step towards Vodafone becoming a SME champion and a platform-based business.”
Rodney Clark, corporate vice president of channel sales at Microsoft, said: “More than ever before, small and medium-size businesses across Europe and Africa need secure and reliable solutions… [for] real-time communication, collaboration and innovation… to transform their businesses…. We are thrilled to collaborate with Vodafone Business to bring Microsoft cloud solutions that leverage 5G and edge computing… to market.”
Enterprise IoT Insights and RCR Wireless are holding a free webinar this Thursday (December 9) with Google Cloud on: The Role of Hyperscalers in 5G and Edge. The session – at 8am PT / 11am ET / 4pm GMT / 5PM CET – also features panellists from AT&T and Telecom Argentina. To attend, sign up here, or click on the image below.