Matt Day and Mark Bergen (Bloomberg) -- Google’s cloud arm is partnering with AT&T Inc. on a suite of business products to be delivered over 5G networks, the latest tie-up between tech giants and wireless carriers hoping to capitalize on the rollout of faster connectivity.
The Alphabet Inc. unit and AT&T said Thursday they were testing products designed to bring software and data services to fifth-generation, or 5G, customers, an initiative targeting sectors including retail, manufacturing and transportation. The deal, which will see Google cloud offerings delivered by AT&T’s network in major metropolitan areas around the U.S., is part of a set of services Google is unleashing that the company said will give telecommunications providers more computing power and better margins.
Cloud sales are central to Google’s strategy to expand beyond its core ads business. Last month, the company released cloud unit revenue for the first time -- $8.9 billion in 2019 -- while rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have continued to show impressive growth.
Thomas Kurian, the chief executive officer for Google cloud, has picked communications companies as an area of focus in an attempt to lift Google from its distant third place in the cloud market. “It’s one of our fastest growing industries,” Kurian said in an interview. Kurian and AT&T officials declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.
The introduction of 5G is just beginning, with test projects from carriers like AT&T generally limited to select big cities. Nationwide coverage may take years. But tech giants and telecom industry incumbents angling for a slice of the market for edge computing are announcing plans to pool their resources to go after big corporate customers. The White House has made 5G a linchpin of its tech policy, particularly as it tries to suppress the global expansion of China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
Amazon Web Services, the largest provider of cloud computing services, in December announced a push with Verizon Communications Inc. to sell cloud-based edge computing services, which let clients process information closer to the source rather than at far-away data centers. Microsoft, No. 2 in the cloud market, also has a strategic alliance with AT&T.
Mo Katibeh, chief marketing officer for AT&T Business, says the partnership with Google isn’t exclusive. “When we think about edge compute, we think it’s going to take an ecosystem to bring this to life.”
Kurian said the flurry of recent deals “is reflective of customers in specific industries needing solutions to problems. A single company cannot deliver the solution.”
Google and AT&T are in a pilot program with “a leading retailer,” who they declined to name. The companies hope to develop new applications for businesses that require faster response time from their rented cloud-computing power for services like automated quality control in a manufacturing plant, or point-of-sale systems managed over a wireless network.
Kurian said the pitch for the edge computing strategy was similar to that of Android, the operating system Google used to gain sway over much of the smartphone market.
Google also announced deals with telecommunications software makers Amdocs and Netcracker to build versions of their programs designed to run on Google’s cloud. Both companies will continue to support customers who want to use other clouds, too.
Google executives have recently cited a focus on winning cloud partnerships that extend to other parts of its business, like ads and YouTube. That’s not happening here yet. AT&T has withheld its ads from YouTube for more than a year over concerns about inappropriate content.
“Until Google can protect our brand from offensive content of any kind, we are removing all advertising from YouTube,” AT&T said in a statement.