IBM partners with Telefónica for cloud-native 5G core network platform

UNICA Next data centers will be deployed starting in next month.

IBM announced a new partnership with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica that will see the two companies collaborate on a modernization project centered around Telefónica's 5G core network platform.

Telefónica will be using IBM's intelligent automation software and services as it builds out its first-ever cloud-native, 5G core networkplatform called UNICA Next.

Telefónica said its goal is to "acquire the agility, reliability, and efficiency to continuously optimize its services" with UNICA Next. 

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Javier Gutierrez, the 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. 

"5G has the potential to support thousands of use cases and applications for consumers and enterprises in all industries. 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," Gutierrez said.

"With IBM, Telefónica is combining the latency and bandwidth advancements of 5G with the customization and intelligence of the cloud: we anticipate the results will be transformative in Europe and beyond."

Telefónica's network will be built on IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, Red Hat OpenShift, and Juniper Networks Apstra and QFX technology. 

The companies explained that the new platform will "enable continuous improvements in deployment and management" and IBM's software will offer UNICA Next "intent-driven orchestration supporting the end-to-end lifecycle management of different network cloud elements and network functions, including 5G core."

"Pairing it with the power of Red Hat Open Shift and Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes, the combination will present Telefónica with an environment designed for increased observability and control for managing the UNICA Next Kubernetes environment and drive 5G and edge innovation more quickly and with less complexity," the companies explained in a statement.

"IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation is AI-powered automation software designed to provide extreme automation, zero-touch provisioning, and closed- loop operation capabilities. These new capabilities will be engineered to allow Telefónica to more quickly deploy network services and new network functions, leveraging the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications partner ecosystem."

Telefónica noted that it has already implemented the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications in Europe.

IBM has announced a slate of 5G deals in recent months, including pacts with DISH and others. In June, IBM unveiled hybrid cloud deals with Verizon and Telefónica.

The company noted that Telefónica, like other Communications Service Providers, is preparing its technology for the future benefits of 5G.

Telefónica said it is aiming to build "an open, secured, intelligent, and highly automated network that can power transformation for consumer and enterprise customers across all industries."

UNICA Next data centers will be deployed starting in October 2021 and Telefónica said the open-standard, open-networking technology-compliant platform will eventually be deployed across multiple central, regional and distributed data centers.

Steve Canepa, managing director of IBM Global Communications Sector, called the partnership with Telefónica "historic" and said the 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 energized by the opportunity to enable Telefónica and all our clients to modernize their networks and enable new revenue-generating services that deliver tremendous value to consumer and enterprise customers," Canepa said.

IBM Global Telco Solutions Lab, which is based in Coppell, Texas will be connected to Telefónica's Network Cloud Lab in Madrid to help "accelerate UNICA Next's evolution by building new fully integrated releases using CI/CD methodology for ongoing life-cycle upgrades to the existing UNICA Next platform."