White Boxes and 5G Mark a Departure from Physical Box Rigidness, but at What Cost?

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By Don Alusha | 1Q 2019 | IN-5346


White Box Emergence


Network appliances based on open-source software and commoditized hardware are already an integral part of enterprise networks and data centers. Branded as white boxes, they are now emerging as a popular option in the telco domain. A case in point is AT&T, an operator that has gone live with its white-box cell-cite routers, intending to deploy more than 60,000 white boxes in its cell towers over the next few years. The potential utility lies in cost efficiency, network design flexibility, and faster innovation.

White-box utility notwithstanding, technical differences between the strictly regulated and standardized mobile telco network (including 4G Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and 5G Next-Generation (NG) Core) and the open nature of data networks (Internet) will arguably pose many challenges when porting enterprise and web concepts to the telco domain. Further, white boxes have the potential to upend market economics, but the telco industry should first ponder how to fund the Research and Development (R&D) for the required software. Telco vendors have substantial investme…

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