AT&T sees open source software and hardware as fundamental to 5G

Working with industry consortia Open Network Foundation and Open Compute Project on sharing open source software and hardware technology, respectively, with the broader telecom ecosystem, AT&T is focused on bringing software control to passive optical networking with its Virtual Optical Line Termination Hardware Abstraction (VOLTHA 1.0) framework for moving passive optical networking access into the cloud.

AT&T released VOLTHA 1.0 through the Open Network Foundation after developing the tech in conjunction with vendor partners. Eddy Barker, AVP of technical design and architecture, AT&T Labs, described the long-term goal in a recent blog post. “Our goal is to align with other service providers across the globe to develop future versions of VOLTHA. The next release will be the foundation for merging all services on a single network, including 5G wireless infrastructure.”

In its effort to adopt software-defined network and network functions virtualization, AT&T developed its Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) architecture, which has subsequently combined with Huawei’s OPEN-Orchestrator code into a new framework dubbed Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). The Linux Foundation has made ONAP available for further contribution from other telecom stakeholders.

Barker explained the rationale behind open source software and hardware. “Open software efforts benefit the industry because we rely on the active participation and feedback from a large community of developers. Developers can improve, add, and influence changes to the software that will help us deliver XGS-PON technology to customers quickly. On the hardware side, we’ve submitted seven hardware specifications for the next-generation access network into the Open Compute Project (OCP).  These specifications are open to the hardware supplier community for anyone to build and commoditize. The use of open hardware and software designs allows us to accelerate the speed of innovation and get to customers faster.”

AT&T expects to virtualize 55% of its network by the end of the year, and plans to have 75% of network traffic running on its SDN-enabled network by 2020.

XGS-PON provides symmetrical 10 Gbps throughput in a fixed use case. AT&T is lab testing the technology with plans to move into field trials later this year.


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