AT&T made significant announcements related to the virtualization of its network at the Open Networking Foundation Connect conference this week in Santa Clara. The carrier said that it is going into production mode on the AT&T white box router, of which up to 60K will be deployed, the company previously announced.

Additionally, AT&T made a new release of the Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP) specification public.

AT&T White Box Router
In a blog post, AT&T Labs’ AT&T Labs’ President and Chief Technology Officer Andre Fuetsch wrote that the white box project has entered a new phase. “What’s new is that we have our first routers now installed carrying live network traffic,” he wrote. “This is ready for prime time. So starting next year, we’re going to start installing these routers in several thousand towers. We think this approach will help support and accelerate the mobile 5G era.”

Traditionally, telecom network equipment is built by select vendors to provide specific functionality. In the white box world, a carrier releases specifications that virtually any vendor can satisfy. In AT&T’s case, the carrier also is releasing parts of the software it is writing to control the white boxes to the open source community.

AT&T also announced the next generation of ONAP, which “essentially the operating system for a software-defined network.” The carrier says that the new Casablanca release “extends support for cross-stack deployments across new and existing use cases such as 5G and Cross-Carrier VPN.”

The specification for the white box router was released on October 1. The carrier said at the time that the device would be a “high-performance, versatile router” that will act as a cellsite gateway and support shifting backhaul requirements as legacy air interfaces transition to 5G.

The announcement that 60,000 white boxes would be deployed was made in March. The carrier said that the white boxes would be driven by the disaggregated network operating system (dNOS). The first of those white boxes now are in use.

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