The European Union has an initiative called WiFi4EU, which aims for major European cities to provide free Wi-Fi in popular public places. At the same time, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) has been working on its open Wi-Fi project, creating open-source software for Wi-Fi and bringing together an ecosystem of Wi-Fi of vendors.
Today, TIP announced that the city of Dublin, Ireland, is trialing TIP’s open Wi-Fi. It’s the first instance where TIP’s open Wi-Fi is being used by a municipality, and it complies with WiFi4EU requirements.
Neil Bullock, a project manager with TIP, said he’s hopeful that Dublin will decide, after the trial, to implement the TIP open Wi-Fi technology and that other European municipalities will follow suit for their own WiFi4EU programs. The EU subsidizes these Wi-Fi networks.
Bullock said TIP’s Wi-Fi technology enables disaggregation between the access points (APs) and the controller. “Today, if you want to buy access points you have to get a proprietary controller to go with it,” said Bullock. But with TIP’s technology, customers can buy APs from one manufacturer and a controller from a different supplier.
He said openness is important for European cities because they’re held to a high standard in terms of procurement. “If they’re locked in, it runs against their ethos of open procurement.”
In Dublin, the city council contracted with Virgin Media Business for the trial, which in turn selected TIP’s technology. The trial includes Wi-Fi 6 access points from Edgecore and HFCL and a cloud-based controller from NetExperience. Bullock said it will involve “tens” of access points, which will be deployed on a variety of street assets and existing 4G/5G equipment in Dublin’s historic city center.
In the future, Dublin could choose additional access points and controllers from any TIP open Wi-Fi compliant manufacturer to expand the city center network.
Other cities have joined WiFi4EU, but to date those deployments have used proprietary solutions because that’s all that was available. Dublin will provide an example for other cities that want to use TIP’s open Wi-Fi.
More opportunities for TIP’s Wi-Fi
TIP’s open Wi-Fi has been used already by Boingo, which has done wide commercial deployments doing Wi-Fi 6E across its footprint, using both TIP access points and controllers.
And TIP’s open Wi-Fi has also been used in large indoor buildings that might have otherwise used a cellular distributed antenna system (DAS) before.
Bullock said TIP’s Wi-Fi “opens up interesting value opportunities” for Wi-Fi offload as well. For instance, in the U.S. Comcast has millions of Wi-Fi hotspots, many in public places, which it leverages to offload traffic from its Xfinity Mobile service. European cities may be able to create new business models leveraging their WiFi4EU assets.