BARCELONA — Mobile World Congress 2014 — AT&T sent a clear signal of its willingness to shake up its vendor list in the move to virtualization by naming startup Affirmed Networks as the first vendor to work on the network operator's virtualized EPC architecture as part of the AT&T's "Domain 2.0" program to reduce network costs and speed service development and deployment.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said Monday that it has selected Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Tail-f Systems , and Metaswitch Networks for further discussions on design and deployment. The initiative is designed to accelerate the carrier's move to software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), help it adopt a more cloud-based approach, and enable it to reduce capital expenses. (See AT&T Puts SDN/NFV in Driver's Seat.)
In a brief appearance here in Barcelona Monday afternoon, AT&T's John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T technology and network operations, said to expect more vendors to be announced in 2014, including some that haven't worked in the telecom space before.
Donovan's presentation stuck close to a blog posted by AT&T today. Nonetheless, he stressed the radical nature of the changing way that AT&T is working with suppliers on this project with suppliers, stressing that the operator needed to take an innovative approach if it is to create the "User-Defined Network Cloud."
Here's how the operator envisages that cloud:
Startup Affirmed Networks got the first crack at AT&T's virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) over much larger vendors, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson, who have announced and are demonstrating eVPCs here. Affirmed has been working in this area already with its AN3000 platform (See Affirmed Brings Smarts to Mobile Data Flows and Packet Core Looks 'Ripe' for Virtualization.)
The EPC is essential for routing different data streams correctly on LTE networks. Making it virtual simply means creating a standard server software platform to handle the tasks that would have previously been done by custom hardware. (See Evolved Packet Core (EPC) for more on the technology.)
"We have... around 10 or so commercial deployments, some with tier-one operators," Affirmed CEO Hassan Ahmed told Light Reading earlier this month. (See Affirmed Claims Mobile NFV Customers, Trials.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading