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AT&T Is Building Computing Power Into the Network Edge

“White box” routers are being deployed at cell towers because carriers expect more data processing will occur at the network edge

DALLAS — Cell telephone base station manufacturers, like Ericsson and Nokia, may play a smaller role in emerging 5G networks than they did in LTE networks, and 3G and 2G networks prior to that. 

AT&T, for example, is determined to replace proprietary hardware with open source software as part of an initiative to take costs out of its network while increasing capacity, according to rcrwireless.com.

The carrier has announced plans to replace the routers at 60,000 cell towers with ���white box” hardware over the next several years. No vendors were named for the white box router project, but last year when it announced a related project, Barefoot Networks, Broadcom, Delta Electronics, Edgecore Networks, Intel Corporation and SnapRoute provided the standardized hardware and open source software for that trial, according to the same article.

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White box routers are being deployed at cell tower locations because the carriers expect more and more data processing will occur at the network edge. Low-latency applications such as self-driving cars and virtual reality will rely on servers placed close to the network endpoints rather than in a distant data center.

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