Microsoft-Vodafone Points to Cloud-Native Telco Future


By: R. Scott Raynovich

Vodafone's huge deal with Microsoft shows how the telecom industry may be on the cusp of accelerating its move to cloud-native technology to boost innovation.

In a wide-ranging investment including an equity partnership, Microsoft and Vodafone have a signed a ten-year deal to become partners to build new cloud-native platforms and drive Vodafone's Internet of Things (IoT) business. Vodafone will invest $1.5 billion in the coming decade in cloud and AI technology supplied by Microsoft, while Microsoft will become an equity investor in Vodafone's spinoff managed IoT business.

Accelerating Digitization

Vodafone Chief Executive Margherita Della Valle said the deal is an opportunity to accelerate digitization. Vodafone will use OpenAI technology running on Azure to improve customer service operations including its consumer chatbot, and all Vodafone employees will get a license for Microsoft Copilot, according to a press release issued on Tuesday.

Microsoft, for its part, said the deal will expand the company's reach in the world of AI.

“This new generation of AI will unlock massive new opportunities for every organization and every industry around the world,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft chairman and CEO, in a press release. “We are delighted that together with Vodafone we will apply the latest cloud and AI technology to enhance the customer experience of hundreds of millions of people and businesses across Africa and Europe, build new products and services, and accelerate the company’s transition to the cloud.”

Spinning Off IoT

The two companies had already been working together on cloud-related projects. Another aspect of the deal is that Vodafone will become a channel for more Microsoft services, including Azure and Teams. It will also be migrating datacenter assets to Microsoft's Azure.

Also as part of the deal, Microsoft said it will invest in Vodafone’s managed IoT connectivity platform, which is targeted to become a separate, standalone business by April 2024, according to the companies. The IoT business will target new applications and expand the platform to connect more devices, vehicles, and machines. Vodafone says the business connects 175 million devices and platforms worldwide. Vodafone also plans to open up its IoT platform to the Azure ecosystem by using open APIs.

This landmark deal hints at the future of the telecommunications industry as it comes under the dual pressure of slowing growth and rising costs. It's likely to put pressure on other large telco companies who are considering strategic partnerships with cloud providers to drive down operational costs and increase service velocity.

Futuriom Take: This is a smart and dynamic deal by Vodafone, giving it full access to Microsoft's AI and cloud technology while potentially unlocking value in its IoT market.