The Italian service provider EOLO is using software-defined networking (SDN) to provide fixed wireless broadband to 300,000 customers in rural areas of Italy. Rather than buy proprietary routers and software from a traditional telecom vendor, EOLO custom-built its own routers, and it uses a Linux operating system along with 6WIND acceleration software.
Fixed wireless broadband is kind of a hybrid between wired and wireless broadband. It uses cell towers and wireless spectrum to deliver broadband Internet. But the service is only available at discrete residential or enterprise locations, unlike 4G mobile that covers whole areas.
EOLO began its fixed broadband wireless project about five years ago. At first the company looked at the available hardware and software from some of the top telecom vendors. “They looked at the fact that these things would be sitting outside in mountainous regions not inside a data center,” said Kelly LeBlanc, VP of marketing for 6WIND. Ultimately, “they decided to create their own routers at the base of towers,” she said.
Initially, EOLO chose Tilera hardware. But it’s currently migrating to x86 on the new Intel Xeon Scalable processors within Advantech white box servers. EOLO created its own routers on the white box hardware. The routers include PPPoE termination, layer 2 and layer 3 quality of service, and Open vSwitch acceleration with 6WINDGate technology. In addition, EOLO is using OpenFlow for a centralized management system integrated with 6WIND’s management plane. The routers use the Linux operating system.
“They took all the things that would be in a router from a legacy hardware provider like Cisco,” said LeBlanc. “They customized all that and added SDN capabilities on top. This is a software system — an SDN router.”
EOLO is deploying its new SDN routers in thousands of radio towers spread across Italy for its ultra-broadband Internet service. LeBlanc said that EOLO’s decision to create a software-based system is making it easy to transition from the Tilera hardware platform to x86.
“We took an innovative approach five years ago to create wireless networks by building our own SDN routers versus buying mainstream networking devices from well-known telecom suppliers” said Luca Spada, CEO of EOLO, in a statement.