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By Paul Colgan
I took the opportunity this year to go to what was the 4th ever TIP conference and it was obvious from the start that a good number of others were there for the first time as well. The TIP community has grown from a handful of key members a few years ago to one composed of hundreds of active companies, working together in collaborative project groups, to design and bring to market disruptive solutions that are more open and disaggregated than those offered by the dominant network element suppliers.
New TIP Exchange launched
At TIP last year, technology prototypes were being lab and field-tested with several RFIs issued. Today, solutions are available commercially and are being actively deployed in a number of service provider networks. To support the open access and commercial deployment of these solutions, a new “TIP Exchange”, was launched at the conference. The Exchange is an online marketplace designed to help industry players find products and solutions validated by the TIP community, featuring 45 solutions from 29 TIP member companies. Interestingly the solutions are marked and graded based on their level of testing – Lab/PlugFest/Field to give an indication of maturity to the buyer.
Progress on OpenRAN
There is momentum building behind OpenRAN given Vodafone deployed trials in Turkey, Spain, and Africa last year and the indication of new trials now starting in Ireland and the UK. An even more significant boost was provided by Santiago Tenorio ‘s announcement that Vodafone will issue a request for quotes (RFQ) for open RAN technology for its entire European footprint across all technologies – 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G. Given it encompasses over 100,000 sites, Santiago believes “this is the biggest tender that there is in this industry in the world”. Clearly, Vodafone is pushing ahead strongly with its OpenRAN strategy in making such a bold move.
A couple of smaller announcements were made during the conference which I thought were interesting. The update that TIP is collaborating with the Open Compute Project (OCP) and Open Networking Foundation (ONF) means another piece of the open, white box jigsaw is clicking into place. There is an obvious strategic synergy between these three groups which will help them deliver on their shared goals.
Rakuten Mobile announced they are now TIP members too and will be providing their 4G and 5G expertise and reference designs for disaggregated solutions to the ecosystem. Unsurprisingly they will also engage as part of the OpenRAN and OpenRAN 5GNR project groups where their field experience will, no doubt, be warmly welcomed. Given Ericsson have recently stated they are investigating with Nvidia how GPU’s could be used for the protocol stack acceleration of a vRAN solution, the industry is very definitely moving in the direction of programmable generic hardware rather than purpose-built ASIC centric appliances. Operators are pinning their hopes on the fact that this will bring in more competition with new innovative companies entering this segment of the market – driving down costs and bringing in fresh ideas and offerings.
The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is a community actively collaborating on building new technologies, examining new business approaches, and spurring investment in the telecom space. You can keep up to date with all the latest developments by checking out the TIP project groups.
Paul Colgan is SVP of Telco solutions at Kx. He has over 19 years of experience working in the Telecoms software industry in roles spanning engineering, product management and go to market strategy. During this time the companies ranged from first-day start-ups growing to be acquired to large publicly quoted global entities acquiring others. The common thread was a focus on high performance, high throughput network-centric solutions to help Operators solve their toughest business challenges.