How BT is reaping the benefits of its Network Cloud

BT Group's chief networks officer Greg McCall delivers his address at this year's DSP Leaders World Forum in Windsor, UK.

BT Group's chief networks officer Greg McCall delivers his address at this year's DSP Leaders World Forum in Windsor, UK.

  • BT has been benefitting from its private cloud platform for some time already
  • The UK operator’s Network Cloud already supports multiple services and is hosting its 5G standalone core 
  • It is driving operational efficiencies and helping with the development of new services development, noted BT’s chief networks officer, Greg McCall, during the recent DSP Leaders World Forum

WINDSOR, UK – DSP Leaders World Forum 2024 – As traditional telecom operators around the world are considering how to migrate from their legacy, service-specific systems and networks to multi-service ‘platform’ architectures that can provide scale, agility and greater efficiencies, they’re looking to their peers for inspiration. According to Greg McCall, chief networks officer at BT Group, who co-hosted the recent ‘Leveraging telco cloud for advanced operations’ session at the DSP Leaders World Forum, he’s in demand from other telcos wanting to know about how the UK national operator’s Network Cloud is playing a role in BT’s service delivery and management strategy.    

As the co-host for the session, which looked at the role of private, hybrid and public cloud platforms in enabling digital service providers to execute their business strategies, McCall took to the podium for an opening address to set the scene and share BT’s experiences and insights.  

“We’re all witnessing a technological evolution that is really creating huge demand for connectivity,” noted the BT executive. “Firstly in providing a core service that enables these technology advancements to handle the increasing data loads that we are all seeing, but also ensuring that we can deliver fantastic customer experience. And secondly, in providing value-added services that can help our customers achieve new levels of operational efficiency. The key to being able to do all of this is about building a fully programmable network” that is always available, “AI-first” and supported by next-level security capabilities and skills. “Cloudification is essential to the modern day telco… at BT group we’ve moved most of our network functions into what we call our Network Cloud,” a private cloud architecture that is already supporting a range of commercial consumer and enterprise services. 

“While it’s an ongoing journey, we have seen real benefits already,” including operational efficiencies, as BT teams are able to “scale our network functions independently from each other. And as more of our network functions become cloud native, we are better positioned to deliver scalable on-demand connectivity… [and] deliver new enterprise use cases,” something that is critical to new revenues for most, if not all telcos, it seems. 

And as a multi-service platform, the Network Cloud is playing a crucial role in BT’s 5G strategy. The operator recently completed the migration of all its customers off its former Huawei core system, which it had to ditch due to changes in UK legislation, and onto its “new cloud-enabled mobile core,” which has been supplied mainly by Ericsson but which also includes functionality from the likes of Amdocs. 

“This is the same core that will support our 5G standalone network, which we plan to launch later this year. But for us, the mobile cloud core is much more than just a compute and cloud environment – it’s a network that is built and which has been optimised for real-time communication and supporting [customer] traffic at real scale,” while it is also delivering great efficiencies for BT’s network operations team. “Our network cloud enables us to deliver capabilities, services, network functions and lots of other capabilities across our network in hours – these same activities and functions used to take us months if not years to deliver in the past,” noted McCall, who added that the Network Cloud platform has also enabled the operations team to introduce automated monitoring and troubleshooting functionality. 

Using a cloud platform has also led to “organisational changes to help us simplify our processes,” with previously separate design, development and operations teams now integrated, “and we’re really starting to see the benefits of having a full DevSecOps environment. And this is allowing us to focus on delivering smaller chunks of functionality to upgrade our network more frequently and ensuring that we do that in a high quality way,” noted McCall. 

“It's also helping us to think about how we drive product innovation” and benefit fully from having an “AI-enabled DevOps team and a cloud-native 5G SA [standalone] network” that can “offer the type of capabilities and services that our customers need both now and into the future.” 

The Network Cloud platform has also enabled BT to be ready, willing and able to participate in the development of new services enabled by network API exposure, something that most of the world’s mobile operators are getting involved in. “5G era networks are massively software based, they're rich in capabilities… historically, companies like ours kept their functionality to themselves. But through cloudification and APIs, we can now make our network functions available to the developer communities and hopefully we'll be able to leverage their brilliant expertise to deliver new functions, new products and new services to our customers beyond core connectivity and, in turn, we’ll be able to make a fair return on that as well,” concluded McCall, echoing one of the key points debated during the Unlocking platform opportunities with network APIssession.

Having outlined the benefits that BT is enjoying from its Network Cloud platform, McCall then fielded questions from his fellow session speakers – Michele Campriani from Optiva, IBM’s Andrew Coward, Geoff Hollingworth from Rakuten Symphony and Colt’s Mirko Voltolini – and engaged on various aspects of telco cloud strategies. You can view the whole session on demand here.  

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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