Editor's Corner—TIP Summit roundup news and views

Facebook's Telecom Infra Project's third summit this week in London was chock-full of industry news. (Pixabay)

The news was fast and furious at this week's Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which included the formation of a new edge application developer group.

Facebook's TIP has a mission statement of accelerating the pace of innovation in the telecom industry, and the third TIP Summit moved that ball forward on several fronts.

Here's a look at some of the news that came out of London this week at the TIP Summit.

Edge Application Developer Project Group

This new TIP project is focused on developing vendor-neutral, publicly available APIs and software tools to enable mobile functions and applications at the edge of the networks that are being built by telecom providers.

The project is being led by Deutsche Telekom and Intel, and also includes Deutsche Telekom's edge subsidiary MobiledgeX. MobiledgeX was developed by Deutsche Telekom to give app developers a space to create new apps for use at the edge. MobiledgeX plans to use an open source software license model, Apache 2.0, that it developed and put into TIP as well as SDKs that it has created.

Bottom line: Edge compute and edge networks are hot topics these days, and having Deutsche Telekom and Intel's backing means TIP doesn't think there's enough being done for edge network development. With a heavyweight entry into edge open source by TIP, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute's Multi-Edge Computing group may be looking at a narrower, less mobile-centric focus than TIP's Edge Application Developer Project Group.

There's also the Linux Foundation's Akraino Project, which is an open source software stack that supports cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications. In August, the Linux Foundation announced that Akraino had moved out from formation and into execution. AT&T's Mazin Gilbert, Ph.D., previously told FierceTelecom that he foresees Akraino becoming its own umbrella organization for edge development.

So is there enough of edge compute and edge networking for all of the various standards bodies and open source groups? It will come down to the support of enabling technologies, such as 5G, getting applications and services to market at a fast clip, and, most of all, getting backing from the service provider and vendor communities.

VRAN Fronthaul

TIP's virtual RAN group announced this week that Aricent, Benetel, Phluido, and Tech Mahindra were collaborating on a virtualized LTE RAN reference solution. The fronthaul reference solution enables cable operators to deliver 4G LTE services over their existing DOCSIS-based networks. CableLabs, which is the cable industry's research and development arm, is working with the group on the vRAN reference solution.

Bottom line: With 27 of its 60 members having mobile operations as well as the traditional HFC infrastructures, CableLabs is keen on getting into the "nonideal" fronthaul game to leverage its existing infrastructure and generate new revenue streams for its members.

CableLabs, BT, TIM and Airtel are all testing a range of vRAN solutions in their respective TIP Community Labs, including G.Fast (BT), Ethernet (TIM) microwave (Airtel) and DOCSIS (CableLabs).

RFIs and trials

Facebook formed TIP two years ago with the goal of creating open networking initiatives in the network equipment sector to break open the grip of vendors' proprietary solutions.

Bottom line: Five TIP Project Groups—mmWave Networks, Open Optical Packet Transport, OpenCellular, OpenRAN and vRAN Fronthaul—all have technologies in trials with operators around the world.

Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone have been the most active service providers within TIP by putting out requests for information (RFI) to the vendor community. Vodafone and Telefónica have issued two RFIs; OpenRAN in June and the Crowdcell Project Group in August.

RELATED: Edgecore and Adva tee up TIP white box gateway device for mobile cell sites

Vodafone, Orange, Telefónica and TIM Brazil provided input for TIP's Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway specification. With that specification in hand, Edgecore Networks and Adva announced this week that they expected to have their joint white box gateway for mobile cell sites ready for deployment by the third quarter of next year.

RAN groups to merge?

Light Reading reported this week that TIP's OpenRAN project could be combined with the Open RAN Alliance.

Bottom line: OpenRAN and the ORAN Alliance, the latter of which was formed earlier this year after combining the xRAN Forum and the C-RAN Alliance, have slightly different approaches to how radio access networks should be provisioned, but the telecom industry as a whole would benefit from a single combined entity instead of two separate ones.

Different starting points

The sheer weight of Facebook is enough to drive open initiatives, but a telco industry executive told me at a conference last year that telcos, and the rest of the telecom industry, need to pick and choose which parts of TIP, or Facebook's Open Compute Project, they want to use because their networks are different.

Bottom line: Telcos know they need to embrace IT and hyperscale technologies and practices, but the trick is to do that and continue serving millions of customers at the same time. Facebook is more than happy to see its open hardware and RAN initiatives adopted on a massive scale, but telco and cable operators have to find the right solutions for each of their respective networks. — Mike

Editor's Corners are opinion columns written by a member of the FierceTelecom editorial team. They are edited for balance and accuracy.