How AT&T Is Using OpenStack to Deploy 5G Networks

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BERLIN — The next generation of wireless networks known as 5G is being enabled at AT&T through a series of open source efforts, including the OpenStack cloud platform.

At the OpenStack Summit in Berlin, Germany, executives from AT&T discussed how they are building out 5G networks and also demonstrated a live 5G phone call running on top of an OpenStack deployment.

“5G is a revolution. The capabilities that 5G will enable are things that will be a step function increase in latency, in reliability and resiliency with ultra-low latency and at very high speeds.” Amy Wheelus, vice president, Network Cloud at AT&T, said. “5G Is really more than just another generation; it’s more than just another G, because 5G is going to enable new services, new products, and even new industries that you and I haven’t even thought about that today.”

She noted that among the 5G application use cases are smart factories and autonomous vehicles. AT&T also expects that 5G will be used for augmented reality, not just for entertainment, but also for critical functions, such as search and rescue or troubleshooting at the top of a tower.

“There’s another thing that’s important and interesting about 5G, and that is, it’s the first generation of mobile communication services that was born in the cloud,” she said. “It is delivered and driven by software at AT&T, and we are doing that on OpenStack. And we are deploying and managing it with Airship.”

Airship is an open source effort launched by AT&T that is now also a pilot project under the OpenStack Foundation’s Open Infrastructure initiative. Matt McEuen, Airship core reviewer, explained that Airship is a platform for the full lifecycle management of open infrastructure.

“It treats containers and helm charts as the fundamental units of cloud software delivery,” McEuen said.

McEuen added that Airship takes a collection of declarative site manifests and then uses them to drive the provisioning and deployment of a full OpenStack cloud. Ryan van Wyk, associate vice president, Network Cloud Engineering, demonstrated in a live call how the OpenStack-based 5G cloud deployment works. Van Wyk said that the 5G cloud is entirely containerized.

“We just showed you that AT&T is really building out a standards-based 5G deployment, and we’ll launch it later this year,” Wheelus said. “Our 5G core is a critical enabler, and we’re building it on infrastructure delivered by OpenStack and deployed and managed by Airship.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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