BT selects Canonical Ubuntu for its next generation 5G cloud core

Via BT Newsroom

Jul 24, 2019

Today, BT has announced that it has selected Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack on Ubuntu as a key component of its next generation 5G Core. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, will provide the open source virtual infrastructure manager (VIM) as part of BT’s Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) program, and the transition to a cloud-based Core network.

This open source cloud-based approach will ensure that BT can quickly deploy new services, and increase capacity to stay ahead of customer demand driven by 5G and FTTP. Canonical’s OpenStack architecture will also facilitate the delivery of BT’s full 5G Core network.

Openstack cloud software will enable the separation of network hardware and software, turning Core network components into software applications, meaning they can be updated faster with continuous integration and development. This separation allows different network applications to share the same hardware across data centres, making the network more resilient and scalable when additional capacity is needed. The speed at which software can be updated compared to replacing core network equipment will lead to a new way of working for the development of 5G services where BT can build new services in weeks and deploy in days.

Neil J. McRae, BT Group Chief Architect, said: “Canonical is providing us with the ‘cloud-native’ foundation that enables us to create a smart and fully converged network. Utilising open source and best-of-breed technologies will ensure we can deliver on our convergence vision, and enable a world-leading 5G and FTTP experience for our customers.”

Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, said: “BT has recognised the efficiency, flexibility and innovation afforded by an open architecture, and realises the value of such an approach in enabling its delivery of new 5G services. We’re delighted to be working with them to deliver the foundation to this approach, which will underpin BT’s 5G strategy.”

BT’s EE mobile network switched on 5G in six launch cities on Thursday 30th May 2019. Customers and businesses inLondon, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast are the first places in the UK to experience the benefits of 5G. BT has also outlined its 5G roadmap, which will see the cloud-based full 5G Core introduced from 2022.

The higher bandwidth and lower latency, coupled with expansive and growing 5G coverage, will deliver a more responsive network, enabling truly immersive mobile augmented reality, real-time health monitoring, and mobile cloud gaming. The full 5G Core is also a vital step on BT’s convergence of network technologies, bringing together fixed, mobile and WiFi into one seamless customer experience.

Further developments, able to be introduced with more agility thanks to the cloud-based architecture, will introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), Network Slicing and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds. This phase of 5G will enable critical applications like real-time traffic management of fleets of autonomous vehicles, massive sensor networks with millions of devices measuring air quality across the entire country, and the ‘tactile internet’, where a sense of touch can be added to remote real-time interactions.

Neil J. McRae, BT Group Chief Architect, on why BT has made this particular technology choice.

Why Open Source?


“Using open source, we are building out our cloud and edge computing platforms to deliver really scalable technology at the edge of the network.

“This will be a core part of managing and developing applications, giving our developers the freedom and scope to create cutting-edge apps which will support both consumers and industries, particularly from an automation standpoint. This is just one of many things we are doing to enable enterprises to leverage the power of the 5G network.

“This is ultimately going to be one of the foundations which underpins our network for the next 5 -10 years. The platform we are constructing will enable us to roll out our 5G core network, and then we’ll think about our TV platform, pretty much all DNS and Radius network management functionalities, and voice and video conferencing services.

Cloud without limits

“When you talk about cloud it has to be elastic, there can’t be limitations. 

“The beauty of this platform is that it’s elastic, scalable, manageable and can add features quickly – and the Canonical team are helping us work out how to use this. The team understands that we need to move quickly, but that the platform has to be reliable. 

“I want us to have a platform which enables developers to create apps that people never knew they needed but could never live without. 

“Virtual reality, AR, industrial automation, transportation - doing these things far away from the object you’re trying to support with the network is difficult. But we see a future of deploying this in to a factory and controlling their devices and managing sensors, tackling supply chain issues all on-premises is our vision for network cloud and network edge

“With cloud native services we have true scalability, a pipeline for future developments and a cloud expansion model which allows us to meet the growing demands of the network. In the past, when we were upgrading things, we would typically have had to shut down the network - now we can update features and functionality in a much quicker way, in days rather than months.”

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