AT&T will prove 5G using open-source SDN technology

The blazing fast speed and low latency of 5G could suffer from the same obstacle that Gig-internet access does: a scarcity of apps that demonstrate its capabilities. Case in point: The Chattanooga municipal power company EPB slashed the price of Gig-internet to $69.95 per month because many customers opted for slower 100MB service at $59.95 because typical mobile and PC apps do not showcase the benefits of the top speed offering.

It is a chicken and egg problem, or more aptly the chicken and the app problem. Without high-speed infrastructure, apps cannot be built that demonstrate the capabilities of 5G. And without apps, infrastructure will not reach cost effectiveness and be deployed at scale. 5G will not scale without distributing the cloud platforms into the network infrastructure running on software-defined networking (SDN) commodity hardware.

Earlier this week, AT&T, the Linux foundation, IBM, Intel, Ericsson and others announced an open source partnership to contribute to a critical component of the SDN stack—Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP)—that in the future will run on the mass-produced, commodity telecom hardware.

Commoditizing SDN hardware

This move is best understood in the context of the open source data center hardware consortium, the Open Compute Project (OCP), started by Facebook that includes almost every large data center equipment maker and data center owner that operates or wants to operate at scale, including Facebook competitor Google.

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