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AT&T Preps White Box Routers for 5G

Dan Jones

AT&T is pushing toward deploying its mobile 5G network, with plans to roll out 60,000 "white box" routers at its cell towers over "the next several years," the carrier revealed Monday.

The move brings together AT&T's virtualization plans with its edge computing ambitions, and stirs in a heapin' helping of 5G. In fact, AT&T says it is building its "towers and small cells in a radically new way," with standard silicon and hardware, rather than dedicated designs.

"[This] means we're transitioning from the traditional, proprietary routers that sit inside these structures to new hardware that's built around open standards and can be quickly upgraded via software," the operator said in a statement.

AT&T hasn't named the suppliers for its new white box routers yet. It worked with Barefoot Networks and SnapRoute for a white box switch it demonstrated last year. (See AT&T Gives White Box Switches a Chance.)

Nonetheless, AT&T's ambition to seemingly white box everything cannot be good news for traditional 5G suppliers like Ericsson. (See AT&T & Ericsson Stream 5G in Austin.)

AT&T is using the open source operating system it initially acquired buying Vyatta Software in 2017 for the boxes. AT&T calls it the disaggregated network operating system (dNOS), which is orchestrated by ONAP. (See AT&T Buys Brocade's Vyatta Software, AT&T Offers Up White Box Operating System and ONAP Adds Verizon, Claims De Facto Title.)

All of this helps reduce latency at the network edge, AT&T said. "Using white box routers and other hardware in our towers and small cells help those types of edge applications smoothly," the operator noted. "And it means we can update and upgrade them at the push of a button."

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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3/27/2018 | 4:16:01 PM
As I recall they've been experimenting with white box RAN too...
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