AT&T remains mum on LTE-Advanced, VoLTE for network in Mexico

AT&T (NYSE: T) is talking about investing $3 billion to build an LTE network in Mexico that will tie into its U.S. wireless network, but so far it's not saying much about whether it will deploy LTE-Advanced or VoLTE.

A spokesperson told FierceWirelessTech that the company isn't ready to talk about whether the LTE network in Mexico will support LTE-Advanced, VoLTE or to what extent it might incorporate software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). AT&T has said it wants 75 percent of its network to be software driven by 2020.

AT&T's goal is to have one seamless network between the U.S. and Mexico. It expects the first phase of its network will be complete in the next six months and cover 40 million Mexicans, about one-third of the population. By the end of 2016, AT&T expects its mobile Internet service will reach 75 million people, nearly two-thirds of the population. AT&T plans to reach 100 million people by year-end 2018.

In the U.S., AT&T has said it wants to virtualize 5 percent of its network this year toward its 75 percent goal. At the Open Networking Summit in Silicon Valley earlier this month, John Donovan, AT&T's senior executive vice president of Technology and Operations, talked about SDN and NFV, AT&T's use of open source and its contributions to the open source community.

Not only is AT&T using open source in its software, but it's also contributing back to the community, he said.

A lot of the software used to enable virtualized open line terminals (vOLTs) came out of the AT&T Foundry innovation centers and the AT&T Labs. Those engineers are now working with the open source experts at ON.Lab.

AT&T configures devices in its software-based network using a tool built on a data modeling language called YANG, which others can use to create services that plug into its software-defined framework. It's also contributing to OPNFV, which just recently released ARNO, the industry's first open source platform for NFV.

AT&T has said the future of the company is in software. With disaggregation, AT&T is untangling each of the various subsystems in each function, stripping them down to core components, separating them and then re-architecting them for the cloud. Donovan suggested that it's a lot like a complex puzzle made up of smaller puzzles that were put together for their own purposes. Part of the process involves questioning how the network is constructed at each step of the way and considering whether there's a better way to do it.

The operator can't realistically target 100 percent of its network for virtualization due to regulatory requirements and it would be irresponsible to walk away from certain customers dependent on legacy systems, he said, but given another five years, that target could be more like 95 percent.

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