Software Defined Access: Powering a 10 Gbps XGS-PON Network for 5G and More

October 05, 2017
By Eddy Barker

AT&T reached a major milestone today by releasing VOLTHA 1.0 (Virtual Optical Line Termination Hardware Abstraction) into the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). 

VOLTHA fulfills our vision of putting the framework behind the XGS-PON access network in the cloud. This is the first major open-source software release that provides the “brain” for XGS-PON technology. It also delivers on our commitment to move toward open source software and SDN/NFV frameworks. 

We worked closely with Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and the vendor community on the VOLTHA concept. Our goal is to align with other service providers across the globe to develop future versions of VOLTHA. The next release will be the foundation for merging all services on a single network, including 5G wireless infrastructure.

What’s XGS-PON?

Passive optical networks like XGS-PON promise broadband connectivity up to 10 Gbps. XGS-PON is a fixed wavelength symmetrical 10Gbps passive optical network technology. It can coexist with the current generation GPON technology and can provide 4x faster downstream bandwidth. And it’s as cost-effective as GPON. 

People need faster internet speeds with the advent of bandwidth-heavy apps like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. XGS-PON helps networks handle the bandwidth from these cutting-edge applications. 

A Community Effort

Open software efforts benefit the industry because we rely on the active participation and feedback from a large community of developers. Developers can improve, add, and influence changes to the software that will help us deliver XGS-PON technology to customers quickly.

We are currently performing proof-of-concept testing of VOLTHA in our labs and are planning to deploy XGS-PON field trials before the end of 2017.

On the hardware side, we’ve submitted seven hardware specifications for the next-generation access network into the Open Compute Project (OCP).  These specifications are open to the hardware supplier community for anyone to build and commoditize.

The use of open hardware and software designs allows us to accelerate the speed of innovation and get to customers faster.  

Our SDN and NFV future

Major software releases like VOLTHA are necessary to fulfill our vision of a software-defined network (SDN) which employs network function virtualization (NFV). We expect to have 55% of our networks virtualized by the end of 2017. We aim to have 75% of our traffic on our software-defined network by 2020, and we’re pushing hard to beat that goal.

Many software-defined network programs are underway within AT&T covering all portions of our network.  By empowering our engineers to drive innovation and work among communities with similar goals, we will quickly realize the benefits of this new area of technologies.

Eddy Barker is AVP– Technical Design and Architecture at AT&T Labs

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