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AT&T 5G router expected to lower purchases from established vendors

AT&T has handed the Open Compute Project its internally designed cell site router. The AT&T 5G router could take as much as $200 million in sales from the carrier's suppliers.

AT&T plans to install tens of thousands of its homegrown cell site gateway router over the next several years, a move that could take as much as $200 million from the pockets of established vendors.

AT&T said this week it would contribute a reference design for its router to the Open Compute Project (OCP), an industry initiative started by Facebook to share server and data center designs. The carrier built the hardware for its mobile AT&T 5G network, which the company will use to deliver high-speed low-latency services necessary for autonomous vehicles, drones and augmented and virtual reality systems.

AT&T's open design is likely to take business away from established makers of cell site gateway routers, such as Cisco, Ericsson, Juniper Networks and Nokia. How much will depend on whether other tier-one service providers adopt the technology.

"If only AT&T follows this strategy for its mobile backhaul edge routers, there will be a likely negative impact of about $100 million to $200 million at max," said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at IDC. "It could be worse if other operators follow suit."

Telecom companies that are OCP members with AT&T include Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom and Verizon. OCP membership also comprises hardware vendors, including Cisco and Nokia.

5G router
AT&T-designed cell site gateway router

Edgecore launches router from AT&T 5G design

Edgecore Networks, an original design manufacturer, released this week a router based on the AT&T design. The AS7316-26XB supports 4G and 5G base stations and provides backhaul uplinks at 25 GbE or 100 GbE.

AT&T has an open source first policy for the infrastructure it's building to support 5G services scheduled to roll out over the next several years. The AT&T 5G strategy has redefined the relationship between the carrier and established tech suppliers.

If only AT&T follows this strategy for its mobile backhaul edge routers, there will be a likely negative impact of about $100 million to $200 million at max. It could be worse if other operators follow suit.
Rajesh Ghaianalyst, IDC

Other carriers are also pursuing open source initiatives for their 5G work, but few have strategies as aggressive as AT&T's. Since 2016, the carrier has contributed to The Linux Foundation a software-defined networking platform called ECOMP and an internally developed network operating system. The foundation has named the latter the Disaggregated Network Operating System (DANOS).

For the new router, AT&T is using the NOS it acquired last year through the purchase of the Vyatta product line from Brocade Communications Systems. "We are now sorting out which components of the open cell site gateway router NOS we will be contributing to open source," said Robert Bays, assistant VP of Vyatta development at AT&T Labs, in a statement.

AT&T has designed the router to support a wide range of speeds, including 5G baseband speeds of 10 Gbps and 25 Gbps and backhaul speeds up to 100 Gbps. Powering the hardware is a Broadcom Qumran-AX switching chip.

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