Bell Canada testing AT&T’s open source ECOMP platform for building software-defined network capabilities

Via AT&T News Room

Dec 15, 2016

Software-centric Approach Enables Network Applications and Services of 2020

Bell Canada, Canada’s largest communications company, is now testing AT&T’s* ECOMP platform. The company will use the tool to create and manage software-defined networks.

AT&T built ECOMP with a focus on making it accessible to other operators and cloud developers. We have committed to release the platform as open source software in conjunction with the Linux Foundation in the first quarter of 2017.

“ECOMP represents a significant investment in the software-centric networks of the future. We have committed to taking this investment into open source through the Linux Foundation,” said Chris Rice, senior vice president – AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design. “We welcome Bell Canada’s collaboration in driving a new network approach that is faster, more efficient and ultimately more responsive to customer needs.”

“Bell Canada is committed to leading broadband network and service innovation in Canada. We believe software-defined networks will advance the future of both wireless and wireline connectivity by adapting to customer needs quickly, and enabling a seamless user experience,” said Petri Lyytikainen, Bell’s vice president, Network Strategy, Services and Management. “We are pleased to collaborate with AT&T and other leading communications companies to evaluate the promising capabilities of the open-source ECOMP platform.”

Founded in Montréal in 1880, Bell is Canada’s largest communications company with more than 21 million customer connections across every province and territory of the country. Bell operates an LTE-Advanced wireless network ranked as Canada’s fastest and a broadband fiber network delivering gigabit Internet speeds, next-generation Fibe TV and a range of business connectivity services.

Bell joins Orange as the first telecom companies to officially collaborate on the AT&T ECOMP effort. AT&T adopted the software-centric vision several years ago as a response to skyrocketing demand for network capacity. Businesses and consumers expect more out of their networks than ever before. And those demands are only going to increase over the next several years, as new applications like 4K video, virtual reality and augmented reality, and the Internet of Things take off.

“It’s exciting to see the communications industry coalescing around ECOMP,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. “ECOMP is the most comprehensive and complete architecture for VNF/SDN automation we have seen. AT&T has had this platform in production for over 2 years now. This technology is unique in that it’s both disruptive and battle-tested. We can’t wait to host it at the Linux Foundation and open it up to the broader developer community.”

When we first started talking about a “software-centric network” back in 2014, many people were confused by the concept. While the technology is complex, the concept is familiar.

For years, many of us carried individual gadgets for individual needs: a camera, a portable music player, a video camera, a gaming device. Many of us have replaced those with software apps running on a smartphone. It’s faster, more efficient, more upgradeable – and less expensive.

We’re doing the same thing with all the specialized hardware appliances in our central offices. We’re virtualizing them. Those routers and switches and firewalls are becoming virtual network functions running on standard servers. And we’re giving our customers online, software-based control of their own network services. That’s a software-centric network.

ECOMP, which stands for Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy, is the software platform AT&T created to power its new network. ECOMP lets service providers quickly add features and drive down operations costs.

It gives service providers and businesses anywhere more control of their network services, and enables developers to create new services. Ultimately, consumers benefit because the network better adapts, scales and predicts how to make their connected experiences seamless.

That means that all the cool network-enabled technologies coming in the next few years – from virtual reality to self-driving cars to 4K video – will run more smoothly.

Building ECOMP took years. But this has made significant progress in preparing for this software-centric world of 2020. We know innovation happens faster in an open, collaborative world. This is why we are releasing ECOMP into open source. We want others to use and build on what we’ve created so far.

We hope for and expect more companies to test and adopt ECOMP. It’s one of the most powerful and sophisticated software platforms we’ve ever built at AT&T. It will be a vital tool to meet the demands of the data-hungry applications that are coming online. And it will be crucial to fulfilling the potential of the next-generation 5G wireless networks that we’re researching and testing now as we prepare for that world of 2020.

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