AT&T reaches new milestone in unlocking RAN, makes world’s first eCPRI call for millimeter wave

Our millimeter wave (mmWave) introduction in 21 cities and counting is bringing ultra-fast connections to businesses across the country. And a connection we made last week in Redmond, WA will potentially enable us to expand those mmWave deployments faster and more efficiently.

AT&T made the world’s first enhanced Common Public Radio Interface (eCPRI) connection for mmWave at our 5G Labs in Redmond. The calls were made using systems from both Nokia and Samsung Electronics America.  This opens the door for higher network throughput with less fiber, which will create more efficient mmWave deployments, among other benefits.  This is also a significant step in creating an open architecture within the Radio Access Network (RAN).

Some cell phone users probably haven’t heard of the Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI), but it’s used by carriers today to provide the connection between the radio and the base station which is often referred to as “fronthaul.” The CPRI interface today has proprietary aspects which can result in a slower or more costly network build as we increase the bandwidth served requiring more fibers per radio. 

eCPRI is an enhancement of that technology. It’ll increase the efficiency to support higher bandwidth across fewer fibers.  It is also what open interfaces are being built on, making it easier to use multiple vendors in a build. The benefits of this expanded flexibility and capacity will make it easier to deploy mmWave in markets where laying fiber is difficult or impractical, and promote cost effective operations by giving carriers the flexibility to use a variety of vendors to help bring fastest deployments at the best cost.

Reaching this milestone is a result of countless hours of work with our collaborators to develop and test the software and equipment needed to establish this eCPRI connection. The open RAN ecosystem we’re driving helped enable this significant step today and will help spur future achievements that are good not only for AT&T and our customers, but for industry innovation. 

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