SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Telecom Infra Project (TIP), still yet to turn two years old, is kicking off its summit today by stressing progress in cellular and optical networking projects.
TIP, launched by Facebook in February 2016 and now claiming more than 500 members, is aimed at bringing an open source community approach to the telecom world. For the telcos, it's a way to infuse new thinking into the development of equipment, says Axel Clauberg, the TIP chairman and vice president of innovation at DT.
"I strongly believe we need some exponential innovation to master the exponential growth challenge," Clauberg says.
Proponents are also positioning it as a way to more quickly to bring infrastructure into emerging markets. For example, Telefónica and Facebook are announcing a project to use TIP to reduce the digital divide in Latin America.
There's a mix of both motivations in the three projects that TIP and Clauberg intend to focus on during today's Summit keynotes.
- OpenCellular: MTN Group Ltd. , NBN Co Ltd. , Telefónica and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) are "at various stages" of lab and field trials for this project's open source access platform. Part of the goal here is to find ways to inexpensively build ruggedized gear for rural environments. So, the thing to notice here is that the trials are with "three large operators with large footprints in emerging markets," says Aaron Bernstein, Facebook's director of connectivity ecosystem programs. (See Facebook's 'OpenCellular' Aims to Make Mobile Networks Cheaper to Build.)
- Millimeter Wave (mmWave): DT started this project with an eye toward making mmWave complementary to fiber as a broadband option. The reason is pretty simple: "In some of these markets, it's more challenging to dig and entrench fiber in the ground," Clauberg says. (See Eurobites: DT Turns Its TIP Attention to mmWave.)
"We have a lot of interest from city governments. The challenge with fiber deployment is dominant in developed countries as well," Clauberg says. "Having a meshed solution in unlicensed spectrum, with fiber deployment, is the ideal combination."
- Voyager: TIP is announcing increased momentum in general for the packet-optical transport project. MTN and Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) were trialing the platform last year; they're now joined by a "host of other operators" in regions such as Latin America, Africa and Europe, Bernstein says.
Voyager is also gaining vendor support. ADVA has been a backer since the project launched last year, offering commercial support. Today, Cumulus Networks is announcing that it's contributing the Cumulus Linux operating system to the platform, while white box supplier Edgecore Networks is contributing a packet transponder.
The startup angle
One interesting point of discussion during the summit could be the ways in which TIP could kick-start a new wave of infrastruture startups.
Clauberg considers this one of TIP's most important activities moving into 2018. BT and Orange recently announced a combined $283 million in funding through the TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Centres (TEAC) program. (See BT Kicks Off TIP Startup Selection Process and Orange, VCs Commit $113M to Network Startups as 'Black Box' Frustration Mounts.)
The money includes investment from venture capitalists, which is key. TEAC is showing that infrastructure startups have the industry's support, and that's bringing back some investor attention that would otherwise go to snazzy app startups, Bernstein and Clauberg say.
"It might be sexy to work on applications, but it's as sexy to work on the infrastructure. At least I think so," Clauberg says.
- Facebook's TIP to Launch AI Working Group
- Eurobites: DT Turns Its TIP Attention to mmWave
- Facebook's TIP Seizes vRAN Initiative From 3GPP
- Startup Could Replace Ericsson, Says Orange
— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading