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Facebook TIPs Fiber Scale, Builds Connected World

Elizabeth Miller Coyne
2/28/2017

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2017 -- Facebook unveiled the latest steps in its "10 Year Plan" to connect the world and provide a better user experience for services such as video. The company announced it is working with Airtel and Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group (BCS) to build a shared fiber backhaul network in Uganda, and gave an update on TIP (Telecom Infra Project).

During a press conference here, the social networking giant's head of engineering and infrastructure, Jay Parikh, said that the company's goal is to "improve the state of connectivity. The barely connected need to be connected because the experiences we are used to are getting richer and richer."

Today those experiences include text and video -- including live video broadcasting -- but soon virtual reality and 360-degrees video will be important. "All of those require good bandwidth and high capacity," said Parikh.

Jay Parikh
Parikh shares highlights of company news with  the onsite media at Mobile World Congress.
Parikh shares highlights of company news with
the onsite media at Mobile World Congress.

Facebook's effort to provide that capacity includes working with Airtel and BCS to build shared fiber backhaul connectivity in Uganda. Parikh says the three companies are working on an approximately 770km fiber build in northwestern Uganda that will provide backhaul connectivity coverage for more than 3 million people in the region. "We're working with local operators Airtel Uganda and BCS on this initiative and will welcome other operators to join us through an open access and share infrastructure framework," noted Parikh.

Once completed, the new capacity created will be used to provide backhaul to mobile operators' basestations and will reduce costs and increase capacity, improving performance and supporting upgrades to 3G and 4G in areas where operators are bandwidth-constrained.

Part of building out capacity includes expanding its Telecom Infra Project, which now has more than 450 members, including new additions Afrimax, Airtel, Dish, Etisalat, Microsoft, Millicom, Nextel, Reliance Jio, TIM and Zain.

Parikh also said Facebook is expanding the TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center program, with BT launching new centers in London and Adastral Park this year. The new centers will build on the company's first center in Seoul, which was announced at the TIP Summit in November with support from SK Telecom. The work done at these centers allows global operators to coordinate closely with each other and Facebook to accelerate the deployment of infrastructure technology solutions from talented startups, noted Parikh.

Additionally, in London, a group of leading investors, incubators, universities and public/private funds have joined forces to invest more than $170 million in startups focused on telecom infrastructure.

And Facebook provided an update on its Voyager open optical packet transport system. Parikh said members of the Open Optical project group worked with leading operator partners to successfully test the design. Telia is working to deploy and test Voyager over its production long-haul fiber network, Orange will evaluate a Voyager Optical Transponder over its optical transport network and ADVA has announced momentum with test commercial deployments. (See ADVA Takes Voyager on PoC Journey.)

— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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