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DALLAS – AT&T plans to provide more details in the coming weeks on its white box and ONAP plans that are part of its broader network virtualization initiative.

Speaking at the recent AT&T Business Summit in Dallas, Andre Fuetsch, CTO and president of AT&T Labs, hinted that the company would soon be updating its white-box strategy. Fuetsch said AT&T’s plans would provide the carrier with increased agility and cost efficiency.

“We are very bullish on white box, there is no secret around it,” Fuetsch said. “The reality is that the webscale companies have been working with these for some time now. … We are going to push the boundaries across our network. This will bring better economic flexibility and speed.”

AT&T earlier this year conducted a live field trial with multiple suppliers where it tested an open source, white box switch carrying customer traffic. The trial was conducted with a handful of vendors, including Barefoot Networks, Broadcom, Delta Electronics, Edgecore Networks, Intel, and SnapRoute.

AT&T’s white-box strategy is expected to be somewhat siloed, with a more tightly controlled environment compared with other, ongoing initiatives. Brian Washburn, an analyst with Global Data, earlier this year noted AT&T’s work would “appeal to companies that want a highly controlled environment. They want the smooth demo where everything is just flawless and done.”

ONAP Amsterdam

For the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), Fuetsch said the community would be unveiling its first release, dubbed Amsterdam, in the coming weeks. That will be followed by a second release named Beijing in the spring of 2018.

ONAP evolved from AT&T merging its ECOMP platform into the Linux Foundation’s Open-O project. Fuetsch said the resulting “operating system” is important because it creates a standard for all service providers as they move toward 5G network deployments.

“We needed this standard because 5G is all about NFV [network functions virtualization], and now we have a platform to virtualize these functions,” Fuetsch said.

ONAP is also expected to gain new members, though Fuetsch was not ready to say if those members would be international operators or domestic rivals. ONAP has garnered membership from a number of large international mobile operators, including China Mobile, Orange, and most recently Vodafone.

Domestic rivals Verizon and T-Mobile have not joined ONAP, at least not yet. As ECOMP, AT&T was unlikely to have rival operators join its NFV orchestration movement. But having since moved into the Linux Foundation as ONAP the chances have increased that a more direct rival could climb on board.

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