“Open source really helps us on two fronts: one is cost and the other speed,” says AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch.


In a world where metrics are everything, some numbers are still eye-popping. Take AT&T, for example: One of the world’s largest telecom multinationals has been talking for years about “exploding” wireless traffic. How much are we talking about? On a typical business day, roughly 200 petabytes of data now flow across their wireless networks.

That number was center stage at the recent Open Networking Summit (ONS) organized by the Linux Foundation where Andre Fuetsch, AT&T’s CTO, keynoted. It represents nearly a 50 percent increase just in 12 months, he says, adding that “we kind of stopped doing the math on how many Libraries of Congress it equals, just because the numbers were just getting too ridiculous.”

Where are the new demands coming from? Streaming, video, augmented reality and gaming, he says. It all adds up to network demand that Fuetsch sees only accelerating in the future. To keep pace, AT&T plans to launch its mobile 5G network in a dozen U.S. cities before the end of 2018.

And what’s helping keep the lights on, Fuetsch says, is a strong open-source strategy.

The company plans to deploy over 60,000 white box routers in macro- and small-cell mobile infrastructures forming the core of AT&T’s 5g build. It’s an open-hardware design whose specs will be made available to the community later this year.

“Open source really helps us on two fronts: one is cost and the other speed,” Fuetsch says in an interview with TIA Now from ONS.  “If we were to approach software in a closed manner, we’d get saddled with all the costs — the life cycle costs, from birth to death… but if we’re able to put it into open source and show how others can take advantage and use it, we actually share the costs. Where the speed comes in is where we get others to help collaborate and advance that software not just for their needs but for our needs as well.”

To make 5G a reality, AT&T needed to devise a software stack at the edge, Fuetsch says. They decided to build it with open-source projects including OpenStack, Kubernetes and ONAP.

“That way we don’t start building all these one-off islands. We actually can work off a standard implementation that’s part of an open-source community that can evolve. We think it’s pretty powerful.”

Check out the entire AT&T keynote here or the TIA interview here.

What’s next

At the upcoming Vancouver Summit, you can hear more on 5G including a case study from China Unicom and sessions on network slicing, edge and autoscaling. AT&T, a platinum member of the OpenStack Foundation, will be out in force, too, heading up about 20 workshops, lightning talks and sessions covering everything from high-performance Ceph, OpenContrail-Helm and Kubernetes.

Cover Photo // CC BY NC