by Axel Clauberg, Deutsche Telekom, TIP Chairman

TIP at MWC 2018: New Trial Deployments, Project Groups, Growing Ecosystem

At Mobile World Congress (MWC), the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is showcasing progress across numerous project groups working to design, build, trial, and deploy new technologies that will help operators build faster, more affordable, and more resilient networks.

In our existing project groups, there are numerous TIP technologies that are moving from the lab stage to field and production trials. Each trial has operator sponsorship and includes key members of our technology ecosystem. Together, these TIP teams are working to validate technologies, share learnings, and accelerate toward commercialization at scale. Simultaneously, TIP members are contributing designs and specifications for new technologies and building new network tools.

Our TIP community is also growing and expanding in scope to address new challenges. Over the last month, TIP has added three new project groups and subgroups: Crowd Cell, Power and Connectivity, and Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways. At MWC, we are also announcing a new TIP community lab near BT’s Adastral Park campus in the UK and more than €100 million in venture capital funding available for infrastructure-focused startups participating in the TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC) in Germany.

In addition, we are excited to welcome some of TIP’s newest members: China Unicom, Sprint, and Telenor. They join more than 500 companies around the world that are active within TIP.

New progress from TIP project groups

TIP project groups are quickly moving from the contribution and early lab phases to field and production-level trials. Project group updates include:

  • OpenCellular: Several TIP members are announcing new trials of OpenCellular. Earlier this month, TIP partnered with BT, Nokia, Facebook, and Cavium to demonstrate interoperability between the OpenCellular platform and the innovative Nokia community-hosted network, enabling cloud-based remote auto-connection, configuration, and monitoring of the OpenCellular base station. This solution will initially be trialed in remote rural communities in the Highlands and islands of Scotland. In addition, Vodacom is announcing that it will be conducting a trial of OpenCellular in Africa. Finally, Telenor is joining the project group and is announcing its plans to conduct an OpenCellular trial in Pakistan.
  • mmWave:  Members of this project group are working to advance the 60 GHz ecosystem by collaborating on economic modeling, validation, network planning, best practices and more. For example, Deutsche Telekom is actively evaluating use cases across Europe for this technology and is planning to deploy a Terragraph field trial in the Budapest area (via its subsidiary Magyar Telekom). Telenor has also announced a trial in Kuala Lumpur and that they are joining the project group. These customer traffic trials will provide project group members the opportunity to accelerate the validation and adoption of innovative millimeter-wave solutions that can deliver gigabit capacity. Meanwhile, Nokia and Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company, have announced that they are joining the TIP mmWave group and will be participating in efforts to achieve these goals.
  • vRAN Fronthaul: The vRAN Fronthaul group is announcing new lab trials led by partners — including BT, Airtel, and CableLabs — at various TIP Community Lab locations globally. The results from these lab projects will provide key validation for operators as they plan their vRAN deployments. The vRAN group is also releasing a White Paper with an overview of vRAN architecture, an outline of the four vRAN use cases driving the community lab activity, as well as early results that demonstrate the viability of the virtualized RAN on six use cases to work over non-ideal fronthaul.
  • AI/ML:  Facebook is contributing a white paper to TIP’s Artificial Intelligence and Applied Machine Learning (AI/ML) project group that details ML-assisted anomaly detection for millimeter-wave mesh networks. This contribution was developed using time series, engineering, weather, and 3D LiDAR data, aggregated from Facebook’s Terragraph deployments. The outputs of this approach can be applied to monitor, analyze, and optimize millimeter-wave mesh networks.
  • OpenRAN: Co-chaired by Vodafone and Intel, the OpenRAN project group aims to simplify the path to developing a macro, high-power cellular base station using software-defined radios and general-purpose hardware. To help grow this initiative, Vodafone is planning to announce upcoming trials that utilize OpenRAN technology to address rural connectivity and will invite support from other mobile operators and equipment manufacturers.

New project groups and contributions

We are excited to announce that we have also added three new groups to TIP: Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways, Crowd Cell, and Power and Connectivity.

  • Crowd Cell is a new project group led by Vodafone. Crowd Cell is a concept based on relay architecture to help extend the range of existing cellular networks. Due to its plug-and-play design, Crowd Cell can be a rapid and low-cost small cell solution for traditional 4G networks. This project will focus on creating a Crowd Cell by leveraging generic hardware and open source designs for software to minimize costs through this “one design” flexible platform.
  • Power and Connectivity, a project group co-chaired by Facebook and Telefonica, aims to collaborate on strategic opportunities at the nexus of power and connectivity. A recently published report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Facebook demonstrates the relationship between electrification and connectivity, and identifies opportunities for collaboration across technology innovation, deployment, and investment. This link has led Telefonica and Facebook to partner on an effort to bring more companies together — both inside and outside the mobile industry — to work toward universal energy access.
  • Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways is a Vodafone- and Facebook-led subgroup of the Open Optical & Packet Transport project group. The subgroup is focused on the definition of a next-generation cell site gateway device that operators can deploy at their cell sites. The group is working on technical requirements provided by Vodafone, other major operators, and hardware and software technology partners in an effort to produce a disaggregated device specification with a set of fully open APIs that can drive network cost efficiencies.

Supporting the TIP ecosystem through new community labs and TEAC

  • New TIP Community Lab: Thanks to our engaged TIP membership, the TIP ecosystem is thriving. Labs around the world are continuing to trial TIP-led technologies, and we’re steadily adding new labs. Today, BT became the newest operator to announce that it will be hosting a TIP Community Lab near its Adastral Park campus in the UK, where an initial focus area will be trialing vRAN technologies.
  • New TEAC funding: Deutsche Telekom has announced that seven top-tier venture capital funds have soft-circled more than €100 million to fund the innovative infrastructure-focused startups that will join the first TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC)in Germany. At MWC, Deutsche Telekom will announce the semifinalists for TEAC Germany, with final selections to be made on March 20 at an official launch event in Bonn.

In addition, one of our current TEAC startups, Zeetta Networks, was nominated for the MWC Best Network Software Breakthrough award. Winners will be announced throughout the week, so stay tuned!

MWC and beyond

MWC is only the start of what will be an exciting and impactful 2018 for TIP. We look forward to seeing many TIP members at MWC, and even more so, we look forward to all of the contributions this community will make throughout the year.