Facebook Likes Software Routing for Its Gigabit Radios

Facebook is getting ever closer to be being a full-blown mobile service provider, debuting a new software routing system Tuesday for its previously unveiled gigabit radio system.

Facebook 's Open/R software routing system was developed to route traffic sent using its new Terragraph radios and ARIES multiple-input, multiple-out (MIMO) antennas. (See Facebook Debuts Terragraph & ARIES to Extend Wireless.)

This system uses runs over the public 60GHz band with multiple possible signal paths. 60GHz is short range, subject to atmospheric conditions, and isn't good (to put it kindly) at penetrating walls or foliage. A smart routing protocol is essential for finding the best signal path for the data streams. This is ostensibly what Facebook has developed developed Open/R for.

"Open/R was originally designed as a shortest-path routing system to power Terragraph, our multi-node wireless network that delivers high-speed internet connectivity in dense urban areas via short-hop transmission between small nodes," Facebook said in a blog post

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60GHz could end up being one of the millimeter wave frequencies used for 5G services in the future. In fact, the entire Terragraph/ARIES project has the feel of a proto-5G system, exploiting multi-MIMO technology, and promising multi-gigabit links. (See 60GHz: A Frequency to Watch.)

Open/R will do more than just find the best routing path for high-speed wireless. Facebook says it has re-used as much open source code as possible "and we have successfully adapted the platform for use with other parts of our networking infrastructure."

"Open/R makes it possible to prototype and deploy new network applications much more quickly than with the industry’s standard development process," Facebook adds.

The company says it will work out the best approach to introducing the software to the open source community and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) for broader use. (See Facebook TIPs Telcos Towards Open Source Networks.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones 5/12/2016 | 10:57:11 AM
VR Don't forget the Virtual Reality gear they're developing too, these things could intersect.
joshuacollins 5/12/2016 | 9:10:22 AM
Diversification Facebook is increasingly diversifying its operations chains. Soon we will see Facebook as a technology company rather than a social network.
AlexRonde 5/12/2016 | 6:03:17 AM
Thanks Very interesting article. Facebook is definitively a war/cash machine...
Joe Stanganelli 5/11/2016 | 9:09:59 AM
Kudos If that is indeed FB's long-term plan, then sincere kudos.  They seem to be going about it exactly right.  Biding their time.  Keeping their cards close to the vest.  Diligently working on all the back-end technology to make it as perfect as possible, but actually deploying things until they're 100% ready, ignoring all the rumormongering.

We could well have a new, shiny kid on the block by 2020.
Gabriel Brown 5/11/2016 | 7:45:33 AM
Facebook RAN All very interesting. I've been talking with quite a few people in the industry (operators, vendors, silicon, etc.) about this, including several who say they have direct knowledge of Facebook's plan/intent -- it is partly a collaborative effort after all.

It's all very interesting. And very ambitious.

RAN (and licensed access, in particular) is a bit of a closed shop. So, everybody is looking closely at what TIP can catalyze and, ultimately, what it can achieve. 

One thing that looks to be critical is to design systems that are not opex intensive. This is obviously particularly important in the access network. So open source RAN, inlcuding aggregation/backhaul, per the article, is great, but will probably have to packaged up by vendors and SIs.
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