Facebook Launches Collaborative Telecoms Infrastructure Project

MobilityNetworks
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The Telecom Infra Project will aim to stimulate the development of new infrastructure technologies through open collaboration

Facebook has launched an initiative aimed at bringing the development approach used in its Open Compute Project (OCP) data centre hardware effort to the world of telecommunications infrastructure – with the aim of accelerating the pace of development and deployment of networking technologies.

“Every day, more people and more devices around the world are coming online, and it’s becoming easier to share data-intensive experiences like video and virtual reality,” said Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, in a statement released late on Sunday. “Scaling traditional telecom infrastructure to meet this global data challenge is not moving as fast as people need it to.”

Open collaboration

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The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) effort, which is backed by IT and telecommunications firms including Intel, Nokia, EE and Deutsche Telekom, as well as infrastructure providers and system integrators, will see technology partners contributing reference designs, while network providers are to test the technology in their deployments, Parikh said.

Designs will focus on the areas of access, backhaul and core and management, and, as with OCP, the emphasis will be on developing each of these areas separately, rather than bundling them together, as in current practice.

OCP, announced in 2011, aims to stimulate the development of low-cost data centre hardware by openly sharing reference designs. The project is backed by Apple, Cisco and Juniper Networks, amongst others.

“Because the amount of bandwidth that can be deployed widely is so much larger than in the past, it is very reasonable to maintain a strict partitioning of the access, backhaul/line-side, and core portions of a network,” said current OCP president Jason Taylor in a blog post. “This enables independent evolution of each portion of the network, which will lead to long-term efficiencies. Combined with the adoption of IPv6, this simplifies the design of many networks by eliminating clunky translation layers.”

Data traffic in advanced 4G LTE markets is expected to triple in the next five years, while traffic in emerging economies is to grow nine times in the same period, with users typically having multiple connected devices, Taylor said.

“The next-generation networks will have to offer better coverage at higher bit rates, support a higher number of simultaneously connected devices for any given area, and come with more flexibility at lower deployment costs,” he wrote.

Pilot deployments

Nokia said it would contribute an open specification for an interface associated with the radio access runtime environment, while South Korea’s SK Telecom is to publish 5G and virutalised network technology specifications. Nokia and SK Telecom last month announced a collaboration on future 5G networks.

Intel is providing a reference design for a modular access point based on the company’s own architecture, as well as a mobile edge computing reference design kit with open interfaces.

In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of TIP’s collaborative approach, Facebook said it would collaborate with Phillippines telecommunications provider Globe on the pilot deployment of a solar-powered “network-in-a-box” to provide cellular coverage to an unconnected village.

Facebook said it is also working with EE on a pilot community-run 4G network in the Scottish Highlands.

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