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Vodafone, DT drive new TIP open RAN program

The open RAN community received another boost today with the announcement that Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are leading a new Telecom Infra Project (TIP) program focused on the development of RRU (remote radio unit) systems that can be deployed as part of a disaggregated radio access network.

The Evenstar RRU program – which involves Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI, AceAxis, Facebook Connectivity and other specialist technology developers as well as DT and Vodafone – will focus on the remote radio unit element that can then be combined with DU (distributed unit) and CU (centralized unit) elements from best-of-breed vendors in an open RAN deployment.

The development comes as Facebook-led TIP and the O-RAN Alliance finally combine their efforts in what one senior DT executive has described as a "high-level harmonization." TIP says the Evenstar program will develop designs that are "aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications."

Attilio Zani, TIP's executive director, says the Evenstar program is "important because it meets the stated aims of what we're trying to achieve – to reduce cost and increase flexibility. That's very central to our mission statement."

He says the initial Evenstar release is an 1800MHz variant that will be commercially available in the second half of the year with a target price point of US$1,000 per RRU.

"This is one variant, the one that's in demand now, but we expect there to be more. We need to test the demand first and will listen to a broad set of operators – maybe our relationship with the GSMA can help us to get feedback on that," says Zani, namechecking one of TIP's growing number of industry group allies.

While DT and Vodafone are leading the way in terms of operator involvement, others are contributing and looking to make use of the end results, says David del Val Latorre, Telefónica's CEO of research and development and a TIP board director.

"Even though Telefónica is in the background on this particular development, we are communicating our requirements while we focus on other areas [of disaggregated network development]. The RRU will be important and this is something we expect to adopt, but at the moment Telefónica's focus and efforts are on the transport elements of the network and on achieving full automation of disaggregated networks with CI/CD processes. There are many projects underway in TIP and we can't be involved in all of them."

That transport network focus includes the introduction of Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG) elements, designed by TIP's Open Optical Packet Transport (OOPT) group, into Telefónica's production networks: del Val Latorre spoke about the importance of that development late last year.

"The deployment of DCSGs in Germany has been substantial – we have deployed tens, hundreds of routers, and are also now deploying in Ecuador too. This is live commercial deployment – it's a milestone and it's all working," says the Telefónica exec, who notes that Cisco has now joined the DCSG ecosystem (a sign, he says, that the router giant is coming to terms with new ways of developing packet transport systems).

"DCSG is important because it shows the TIP development process works. Now we are involved in the Phoenix [white box layer 0/1 transponder for optical transport] development and we are following the same model – it takes time, for sure, but we are confident we will get to production deployment there too," adds del Val Latorre.

David del Val Latorre, Telefonica's head of R&D and a TIP board director.
David del Val Latorre, Telefónica's head of R&D and a TIP board director.

More TIP developments
News of the Evenstar program was included in Zani's latest TIP blog, which provides an update on other programs and projects (including a lot of WiFi group developments), trials and deployments of TIP-based network systems, new members and closer ties to other industry groups such as the GSMA, the OpenStack Foundation (OSF) and the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance (OSA), as well as the O-RAN Alliance.

"We're very excited about the relationships with other industry organizations. We were founded to collaborate, so these close alignments are good for our membership," notes Zani.

TIP also has a new technology development: "The Open Core Network Project Group will be focused on developing a cloud-native and converged core, running on standardized software and hardware infrastructure, and supporting 4G, 5G, and WiFi access technologies for deployments in licensed, unlicensed or shared spectrum, and in private networks," notes the organization. TIP says it will work closely with the OSF and OSA to explore the potential for collaboration around open core R&D efforts.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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