AT&T to hold 10G XGS-PON field trial, sets pace to virtualize last mile network

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AT&T is going to conduct a 10G XGS-PON field trial this year, signaling an initial move to virtualize functions within its fiber-based last mile network.

During the trial, which will take place in late 2017, AT&T will focus on how to provide multi-gigabit internet speeds to consumers and businesses.

Similar to fellow telco Verizon, the ultimate target for AT&T will be to support convergence of all services on a single network, including its emerging 5G wireless network.

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Besides offering higher speeds of symmetrical 10 Gbps, XGS-PON is a compelling option for service providers that have built out FTTH networks because it can coexist with the current GPON technology.

AT&T plans put some XGS-PON in the cloud with software. By leveraging open hardware and software designs software for the XGS-PON deployment, the telco says it will save time needed to manage, deliver, monitor, troubleshoot and provide care services to customers.

“Software-defined networks and XGS-PON are a natural step along the evolutionary path of PON technology,” said Eddy Barker, assistant vice president of access architecture and design for AT&T, in a release.

In anticipation of the XGS-PON trial, AT&T worked with ON.Lab to develop and test ONOS (Open Network Operating System) and VOLTHA (Virtual Optical Line Terminator Hardware Abstraction) software. By doing this, AT&T can hide the lower level details of the silicon.

The service provider also submitted several open white box XGS OLT designs to the Open Compute Project (OCP) and are working with them for approval. 

AT&T said that interoperability is at the heart of its “Open Access” strategy. The Open Access strategy drove the creation of an OpenOMCI specification, which provides an interoperable interface between the optical line terminal (OLT) and the home devices. This specification was distributed to standards and open source communities.

Such an effort should be of no surprise.

In 2015, the service provider revealed plans to virtualize its GPON optical line terminals (OLTs) it deploys in each Central Office to deliver GigaPower 1 Gbps service to residential and business customers.

This initiative, while tied to its last mile network, is clearly just one of several efforts AT&T is making to virtualize its entire network.

Earlier this year, AT&T set a goal to equip 55% of its network with software by the end of 2017. The telco surpassed its goals to convert 30% of its network to software in 2016 by implementing into 34% of its network.