AT&T's Fuetsch says AT&T now has internet white boxes in production

SAN JOSE, California—AT&T's Andre Fuetsch got down to the brass tacks of his company's software and virtualization efforts during his keynote address on Thursday morning at ONS, which included an update on AT&T's white box efforts.

Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and AT&T's chief technology officer, said in his keynote address that he has a soft spot for the Open Networking Summit conference.

"This is really where a lot of this software-defined networking revolution started, but certainly it's now a global phenomenon," said Fuetsch. "You being here and the companies  and communities you represent are a testament to that."

In an interview with FierceTelecom, Fuetsch said that AT&T now has internet white boxes in production on commercial traffic in Toronto and London with a goal of having them in 76 countries by the end of the year. While AT&T hasn't said which vendors it's using for the internet white boxes, AT&T is running its Vyatta software stack on them, which Fuetsch said AT&T still planned to contribute into the Linux Foundation's DANOS community at some point this year.

These open, white box systems allow AT&T to run 10 times as much traffic as the proprietary routers it previously bought at the same price, said Fuetsch in a blog post.

RELATED: AT&T powers up white box cell site gateways in production test

Fuetsch said that AT&T was also using the Vyatta software in its cell site router gateways, which it's using to support the high bandwidth requirements needed for 5G cell site backhaul. At ONF Connect in December, Fuetsch said those boxes were in trials.

AT&T put its white box specs into the Open Compute Project last year, which led to the development of the cell site router gateway that it's showing at ONS this week. AT&T is demonstrating a white box router gateway from UfiSpace that was developed via the OCP specifications.

Fuetsch said AT&T planned to update 65,000 cell tower sites with the UfiSpace boxes. While he didn't provide a timeline, he said those efforts were ramping up this year.

"This is a hardware box that is based on Broadcom's Qumran chipset, and it's basically a cell site router that is a hardened for extreme environmental conditions," Fuetsch said. "So think like negative 40 Celsius up to 65 degrees Celsius operating ranges. It's also a box that basically can support interfaces from as low as 100 megs all the way up to 100 gig for both supporting our radio based RAN units as well as our backhaul needs."

Tsunami of data

"This is really important for 5G because with 5G we'll see a tsunami of traffic demand on our networks. 5G was a great opportunity, a new era here, which frankly was required because the data demands that we are going to see with 5G will be on another order of magnitude. It's really critical that the base infrastructure that we're putting in to support this has the capabilities. Not just the functionality but the actual speeds to keep up with that."

As of the last fourth quarter, wireless network traffic averaged more than 253 petabytes during a business day, which was an increase of more than 470,000% since 2007. Currently, about 50% of that traffic is video, but video traffic will go up 70% over the next couple of years, according to Fuetsch.

In order to further prepare for the tsunami of data usage, Fuetsch said AT&T was preparing to go from 100G to 400G transport, which Verizon and other service providers are prepping for, as part of its Open ROADM initiative. "We will be upgrading to 400 gig," he said. "To our knowledge, it's another big first, not just for us, but for the industry."

Last month, AT&T, Ciena, Fujitsu and Orange, along with the University of Texas at Dallas, demonstrated how optical networking equipment based on Open ROADM standards could quickly reboot in a disaster-recovery scenario.

While customers may think of AT&T as a wireless company, Fuetsch said it connects over 214 countries and territories with over 1.1 million fiber route miles.

During his keynote, Fuetsch also said he was very proud of AT&T and Nokia contributing their seed code for O-RAN's 5G RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) into the Linux Foundation's O-RAN Open Source Community.