By Shirley Siluk / Top Tech News. Updated February 02, 2017.
During its Innovation Summit in San Francisco yesterday, AT&T unveiled plans to begin moving toward 5G wireless Internet services with launches in Austin and Indianapolis in the coming months.
The move toward faster, next-generation connection speeds is part of a larger network innovation program that AT&T is kicking off with the nonprofit Linux Foundation. That program, also announced yesterday, was set into motion when AT&T transitioned its network automation platform, called ECOMP, into an open source software project led by the foundation.
The project "will allow software, network, IT and cloud providers and developers to rapidly create new services in response to evolving customer requirements," according to the foundation. AT&T's ECOMP platform takes its name from the software service areas it covers: enhanced control, orchestration, management and policy.
'5G Evolution Markets'
Meanwhile, as part of its latest network upgrade plan, AT&T will roll out faster wireless services to customers in Austin and Indianapolis over the next few months. Initially, those first "5G Evolution Markets" will offer wireless connectivity with theoretical speeds of 400 Mbps (megabits per second) or higher, AT&T said.
"As we continue densifying our network and deploying technologies, like carrier aggregation and LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA), we expect to enable theoretical peak speeds up to 1 Gbps [gigabit per second] in some areas in 2017," the company noted in a statement.
As part of its transition to next-generation network services, AT&T said it also expects two new 5G test beds now in development at its labs in Austin go "on-air" this spring. Those testbeds will explore 5G deployment at both indooor and outdoor locations and will feature "flexible infrastructure to allow modifications and updates as 5G standards develop," the company said.
The "massive bandwidth and low latency" that 5G technologies will make possible will help advance applications ranging from virtual reality headsets and mobile augmented reality to self-driving cars, AT&T added.
AT&T 'Indigo' also Uses AI, Machine Learning
AT&T's ECOMP platform, which is now open source, forms the foundation for AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo, the company's new software-defined network service. In addition to 5G technologies, Indigo also uses big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, AT&T said.
According to the Linux Foundation, the fact that AT&T open-sourced its ECOMP software "represents one of the company's most important open source contributions to create a fully open network automation platform."
Besides AT&T, other organizations participating in the new Linux Foundation project include Amdocs, Bell Canada, Brocade, Ericsson, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Metaswitch and Orange.
"The launch of this project is one of the most momentous steps forward for open source networking," Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin said in a statement. "With over two years of production experience, ECOMP allows users to create new services in an automated manner."
The Linux Foundation said it expects to present more details about the open source project during its Open Networking Summit, scheduled for April 3-6 in Santa Clara, Calif.