BT bets on Ubuntu OpenStack to deliver 5G pledge

BT Tower with clouds in background

Telecoms giant hopes an open source, cloud-based approach can help it stay ahead of FTTH demand

BT has announced a partnership with Canonical to develop and deploy its next-generation 5G core network.

The deal will see Canonical offer up its open-source virtual infrastructure manager (VIM) platform so that BT can run network applications as code and transition away from a hardware-based network to one that's virtualised.

This open-sourced cloud-based approach will help BT to quickly deploy new services and allow it to stay ahead of the demand for 5G and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), the company said.

Canonical operates its own distribution of OpenStack, a bundle of separate open source projects connected through APIs. When applied to BT's own infrastructure, this will enable the separation of network hardware and software, turning core components into software applications so they can be updated faster and continuously integrated.

The result is that different network applications can share the same hardware across datacentres for a stronger and more resilient network. For BT, this means the speed at which its software can be updated could potentially lead to a new way of developing 5G services where it can build and deploy within a matter of weeks.

"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," said Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical. "We're delighted to be working with them to deliver the foundation to this approach, which will underpin BT's 5G strategy."

In May, BT-owned EE switched on its 5G services, making London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast the first places in the UK to experience the benefits of the next generation of mobile connectivity.

BT's cloud-based full 5G core will be introduced from 2022 with its cloud-based architecture enabling ultra-reliable low latency communications and multi-gigabit-per-second speeds. The company said this phase of 5G will enable critical applications like the real-time traffic management of autonomous vehicles, massive sensor networks with millions of devices measuring air quality across the entire country and a "tactile internet", where a sense of touch can be added to remote real-time interactions.

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