Speaking at the 2016 Nomura Media, Telecom & Internet Conference today, Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and AT&T’s chief technology officer (CTO), predicted that AT&T’s Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy (ECOMP) platform will become a significant part of the network architecture that the industry will adopt and will contribute to as an open source platform. “It will become a disruptor to that old software stack world that many operators are in,” he said.
Fuetsch explained that ECOMP is powerful because it is not a typical software stack platform. Instead, it’s a module-driven platform that allows operators to create modules that are connected together and deployed quickly. And these modules can be reused so that the time to deploy a new service is compressed.
Last month, AT&T announced it was going to make ECOMP as open source code and enlisted the Linux Foundation to help develop an organization around the project. AT&T’s move sets up ECOMP as a de facto SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) standard if others decide to participate in the project. The operator has been clear that anyone that decides to use ECOMP will not be beholden to AT&T.
During the Nomura investor meeting, Fuetsch emphasized that while ECOMP will promote interoperability between operators and allow them to more seamlessly connect, it will also allow them to have their own “secret sauce,” so they can differentiate from the competition.
Interestingly, he said the company is already benefiting from its aggressive move to virtualize its network with lower costs.
Specifically, Fuetsch said that AT&T has put two-and-a-half times the capacity in the network in 2015 and 2016 for 75 percent of the cost that it spent in 2013 and 2014. “And going forward we will continue to see the cost per megabyte of transport continue to drop,” he said. “We are in the business of connectivity. That’s what it is all about.”
Building the 5G Foundation
Beyond ECOMP’s benefits to AT&T’s operations, Fuetsch also emphasized that the platform is a foundation for 5G. He said that all the efficiencies that the company gains from SDN will help it to invest more into 5G.
However, he noted while 5G is getting a lot of buzz right now, it’s still a few years away from being standardized. “Everything trialed right now is non-standard and proprietary,” he noted.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect that AT&T has only announced it will make ECOMP an open source project and is working with the Linux Foundation to make that happen.