AT&T Touts 5G, SDN in New Network Platform

James AndersonSAN FRANCISCO — Telecommunications giant AT&T is trying to redefine networking.

The company showcased various facets of its “Network 3.0 Indigo” to members of the media at its flagship store in San Francisco on Wednesday. The three main pillars are software-defined networking, a data-powered platform and 5G speed.

Igal Elbaz, vice president of ecosystem and innovation for AT&T Services, said the company provides network services as its bread and butter, but that process is evolving.

AT&T's Igal Elbaz“In the last three to four years, we are in a tremendous transformation, moving from a network which is fully built on proprietary hardware and boxes, to a network which is completely software-based, managed by software,” he told Channel Partners.

AT&T executives said they aim to virtualize 75 percent of their network by 2020. Their mini-goals were reaching 35 percent SDN functionality in 2016 and reaching 55 percent in 2017. The company says it’s at the forefront of SD-WAN.

“Software-defined networking – literally, people thought we were crazy when we said we were about it undertake it. It was always on the industry’s too-hard-to-do list,” said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations.

AT&T on Wednesday announced plans to transition the code of its SDN network operating system, ECOMP, into the Linux Foundation in order to be open source.

“The goal of this project is to allow software-defined networks to adapt, scale and predict, making connected experiences more seamless and valuable,” wrote Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design, in a blog.

AT&T is launching two new sites for its 5G Evolution service: Austin, Texas, and Indianapolis. The theoretical peak speeds in those markets are 400 Mbps or higher.

“This is really exciting because this paves the way to offering up to 1 gigabit peak speeds by the end of the year,” said Andre Feutsch, president of AT&T Labs and AT&T’s chief technology officer.

On the Internet of Things front, AT&T announced that its Control Center for IoT is adding NetBond connectivity. NetBond, which AT&T Partner Exchange made available to its members in October, can connect end users to a list of cloud providers via a virtual private network.

Andy Daudelin, vice president of cloud for AT&T Business Solutions, says the integration will give customers performance, elasticity, reliability and security as they connect to other clouds.

AT&T's Andy Daudelin“They’ll have their things all connected; they’ll use our IoT start[er] kit or something to connect back to the Control Center, but then they need to go back to other clouds like AWS to leverage those cloud capabilities for IoT,” he said.

Daudelin says this will help partners that sell network.

“They should be able to ask their customers, ‘Do you use Internet of Things?’ And if they do, we can say, ‘Oh, we’ve got a great solution for you, because you can do that all over NetBond and add it to your network.’ For solution providers, it should be a natural adjacency to what they’re already selling with the network for any customers that have IoT use cases,” he said.

Earlier this week, AT&T announced plans to run trials of Project AirGig, a broadband-over-power lines technology.

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