Leland Lai is the new executive director of the Telecom Infra Project, the association launched just over a year ago by Facebook in an effort to help redesign how wireless networks are built and operated. Specifically, the goal of TIP is to “disaggregate the traditional network deployment approach” with technologies ranging from virtualized RAN to edge computing to a white box switch, router and transport solution.
But it’s the momentum behind TIP that’s particularly noteworthy. Membership in the organization topped 450 companies earlier this year, and that figure includes a significant and growing number of major network operators ranging from Telefonica to T-Mobile to Bell.
As a result of that momentum, TIP earlier this year hired Lai from the GSMA, where he was the association’s Asia managing director and helped grow the Mobile World Congress Shanghai show from 2,000 to 53,000 attendees in seven years.
Importantly for his work at TIP, Lai has worked for both operators and vendors: In the early 1990s he worked at Hutchison Telecom to participate in the world’s first GSM license bids, then later he worked at 3Com and Terayon Communication to aid in DVB-H mobile TV trials.
Lai will need to leverage that wide range of experience to raise TIP’s profile in the wireless industry. A number of wireless operators and vendors remain suspicious of the group’s procedures and goals, so Lai will need to act as both advocate and cheerleader to take the group to the next level. Whatever happens, he will be an executive to watch.