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Telefónica turns to IBM for 5G core network platform

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Telefónica has become the latest CSP to use IBM AI-powered automation software and services to implement its first-ever, cloud-based 5G core network platform called UNICA Next.

The two have signed a strategic multi-year agreement that will see Telefónica implement UNICA Next – its first-ever, cloud-native, 5G core network platform.

IBM said that UNICA Next will give Telefónica the "agility, reliability, and efficiency required to manage its services and prepare for a future where 5G will transform core network functions".

Javier Gutierrez, director of strategy, network, and IT development for Telefónica said: "Building out the UNICA Next platform with its next-generation network architecture shows how important it is to build the infrastructure now to support the deployment of 5G.

"Our collaboration will not only help us to harness the potential of 5G, but also prepare for the future through a hybrid-cloud led technology and business transformation. With IBM, Telefónica is combining the latency and bandwidth advancements of 5G with the customisation and intelligence of the cloud: we anticipate the results will be transformative in Europe and beyond," Gutierrez continued.

IBM Global Business Services led the systems integration for the UNICA Next platform, which uses IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform (OCP), and Juniper Networks' software.

IBM said: "UNICA Next will provide Telefónica with capabilities to enable continuous improvements in network deployment, management and function, as well as new personalised enterprise and consumer services."

The platform will be deployed across multiple central, regional, and distributed UNICA Next data centres starting next month. Its scalable architecture is designed to address ETSI and other relevant industry standards.

"We are proud to partner with Telefónica to reach this historic moment for the telecommunications industry in Europe," said Steve Canepa, managing director, IBM Global Communications Sector.

"This implementation of Telefónica's cloud-native, 5G core network platform reflects IBM's significant investments in AI-powered automation software and the telco prime systems integration expertise required to deploy modern telecommunication networks – core, access, and edge.  We are energised by the opportunity to enable Telefónica and all our clients to modernise their networks and enable new revenue-generating services that deliver tremendous value to consumer and enterprise customers."

The move from Telefónica followed similar developments last month from DISH, which is to use IBM’s AI-powered automation and network orchestration software and services to bring "broad 5G network orchestration to its business and operations platforms".

Other CSPs now on IBM's books include AT&T, Verizon, Bharti Airtel, Bouygues Telecom and Vodafone-Idea.

IBM said of its recently contract wins: "CSPs will benefit far more from focusing on the big picture: what innovation is required to create new value -- not the complex process to make it run seamlessly."