TIP’s plan to make telco networks open-source is going well, thanks

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ITEM: Last week’s TIP Summit – the annual gathering of the Facebook-led open-source Telecom Infra Project – unleashed a slew of announcements covering a lot of bases, from optical transport and power solutions for micro LTE base stations to fronthaul, network slicing and, of course, artificial intelligence.

TIP’s Open Optical Packet Transport (OOPT) group – which has been working on commercializing Voyager, the open white-box transponder initially developed by Facebook – announced that a number of Tier-1 caarriers are trialing Voyager, including TIM Brasil and Internexa in Latin America, Orange in Africa, and Telia Carrier in Europe, while Vodafone plans to start its own European trial next year.

Also, more vendors are joining the action. Cumulus – whose specialty is unlocking vertical network stacks – announced support for Cumulus Linux on Voyager, while Edgecore Networks said it is contributing its Cassini packet transponder hardware design to TIP. Cassini – which integrates 100GbE switching with Layer-1 optical transport functions – could help make Voyager flexible enough to handle different sorts of apps, including metro/access backhaul and data center interconnect.

More interesting than that, perhaps, is the announcement that the OOPT’s Physical Simulation Environment (PSE) working group has been developing an open-source multi-vendor tool for optical network planning that would effectively enable operators to do their own planning without relying on the equipment vendor.

From the release:

Operators will no longer have to depend on their suppliers to plan routes and network capacity, but will have an independent way to lay out their requirements and simulate network conditions – saving a significant amount of time spent on back-and-forth communication. On the other hand, suppliers can deliver a virtual system with their optical network elements that allows the operator to plan and operate a network efficiently.

The tool was developed by group members Cisco, Facebook, Juniper, Microsoft, Orange, Politecnico di Torino and Telia Carrier.

Meanwhile, TIP has officially roped AI tech into its work with the launch of a new Artificial Intelligence and Applied Machine Learning Project Group, which will be helmed by Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica.

The group aims to “define and share reusable, proven practices, models and technical requirements for applying AI and ML to reduce the cost of planning and operating telecommunications networks and to understand and leverage customer behavior”, with the goal of not only optimizing service experience, but also – more importantly – increase automation.

The group will collaborate across three work streams: ML-based network operations, optimization, and planning, customer behavior-driven service optimization, and multi-vendor ML-AI data exchange formats.

Now you’re playing with power control

On the mobile infrastructure front, TIP’s OpenCellular group – which has been developing a micro LTE base station for rural access – unveiled “OpenCellular Power”, an open-source solar charge controller for rural infrastructure.

The OpenCellular base station was designed with rural coverage for underdeveloped areas in mind, but one of the perennial challenges of deploying in such areas is power, as the local power grid is typically weak, unreliable or – more often than not – non-existent. Current rural solutions compensate with diesel generators, solar cells, batteries and other gear, but it’s expensive from a TCO standpoint and not that reliable.

The new solar charge controller from OpenCellular – developed by Facebook, Delta, Bel Power, Panasonic and Clear Blue Technologies – can power a maximum total load of 150W through five individually monitored and switchable DC output lines, with an input of up to 1500W of solar power, grid power (via an adapter), or potentially other sources like wind. It also includes a lithium ion battery module that can last for more than five years, and sports open interface specs to incorporate hardware and software modules, including open-source hardware and software design for the controller.

Other highlights from the TIP Summit:

  • Vodafone and Intel will co-chair a new OpenRAN Project Group aimed at reducing the costs associated with building mobile networks and enabling easier market entry for smaller vendors. The project will focus on implementation of RAN solutions that can be deployed on general purpose processing platforms.
  • BT will chair a new project group focused on Network Slicing as it applies to new and upcoming network architectures. This project will identify end-to-end use cases that can be researched, developed and demonstrated to help meet some of the key challenges in the network slicing arena.
  • The vRAN Fronthaul project group announced the opening of two separate TIP Community Labs that will be focused on vRAN projects showcasing various fronthaul technologies: one in India (hosted by Bharti Airtel) and the other in the US (hosted by CableLabs).
  • The Solutions Integration project group said it has successfully completed the Type-1 4G Unbundling project, which involves partitioning an LTE eNodeB into functional components and using open APIs to create an open RAN architecture for multi-vendor interoperability and lower opex.

All the details are here if you want them.

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