“Open Source” Router Coming to Over 60,000 Tower Locations Near You


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AT&T released detailed specifications this week for a cell site gateway router, following up on an earlier commitment. This “white box” blueprint is a reference design that any hardware maker can use as a guide to build these routers. AT&T plans to install them at tens of thousands of cell towers over the next several years. These routers will eventually form the infrastructure that will enable not just phones and tablets to connect to our mobile 5G network, but new technologies like autonomous cars, drones, augmented reality and virtual reality systems, smart factories, and more.

This white box approach to designing and building cell site gateway routers is part of AT&T’s years-long transformation to create open platforms that speed innovation and spur competition among hardware makers. Rather than using proprietary solutions from a few vendors, AT&T is releasing these specs as open designs to all interested hardware manufacturers. According to carrier, “If you’ve got the skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, we want to see what you can do.”  

“This transformation is about meeting the surging data demands of our customers as we head into this 5G world,” said Chris Rice, senior vice president, Network Cloud and Infrastructure at AT&T. “Data traffic on our wireless network has grown 360,000% since 2007. We now carry more than 222 petabytes of data on an average business day. The old hardware model simply can’t keep up, and we need to get faster and more efficient. We believe this white box approach helps us meet that demand while allowing us and others now to innovate faster than ever before.”

The cell site gateway router is a high-performance, versatile router. It’s designed to address the changing needs of the backhaul transport requirements as mobile service providers make the transition from legacy technologies toward 5G RAN technologies. It is an open hardware specification that can be coupled with a separate, disaggregated software solution.

This creates several advantages:

  • It decouples hardware from software, so providers have freedom to choose software implementations that best support their business and operational models.
  • It is designed to support a wide range of speeds on the client side including 100M/1G needed for legacy Baseband Unit systems and next generation 5G Baseband Unit systems operating at 10G/25G and backhaul speeds up to 100G.
  • It is designed to operate at industrial temperature ranges (-40C to +65C).

October 3, 2018     

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