By David Levi
AT&T’s recent announcement that it plans to use open hardware designs as it virtualizes its network illustrates the rapid development of edge computing and the use of data center architecture at the network edge.
AT&T plans to become the first carrier to offer mobile 5G in the United States, and to that end, stated that it has already completed the first live field trial with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment last month. The company now plans to roll out 60,000 white box routers over the next several years across its entire wireless network.
AT&T will deploy these routers on its 5G-equipped towers and small cells to better address low-latency issues. The move is part of the company’s transition from traditional proprietary routers to open hardware that can be upgraded more efficiently.
According to Andre Fuetsch, CTO and president of AT&T Labs, the white box equipment will use open hardware designs, enabling companies such as Ethernity Networks to build equipment that matches AT&T’s specifications.
AT&T said that mobile 5G will enable applications to run in the cloud, requiring mobile edge computing, which is the ability to host and process those applications at the cell towers and small cells in close physical proximity to users. Running such apps in data centers thousands of miles away from users adds latency, which is incompatible with many of today’s applications.