Amid a slew of news corresponding to what would have been Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week, the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP) announced the launch of the Evenstar remote radio units (RRU) program. Partners Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI and AceAxis are among those behind the effort.
The Evenstar program is focusing on building general purpose radio access network (RAN) reference designs for 4G and 5G networks in the open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN Alliance (O-RAN) specifications.
They say that by decoupling the RRU hardware, distribution unit and control unit software—which are traditionally sold as a package—mobile network operators gain the ability to select best-of-breed components from an increasing number of suppliers. That’s a theme that has been repeating itself throughout the industry in recent years.
Specifically, the TIP group is targeting commercial availability for the Band-3 (1800 MHz) variant toward the second half of 2020, with a plan to have cost-optimized SKUs available in 2021 at a target cost of $1,000, according to Santiago Tenorio, chair of TIP and head of Network Strategy and Architecture at Vodafone.
John Baker, SVP of Business Development at Mavenir, indicated the price is about one-third that of normal RRU pricing.
TIP's roadmap evolves through 2020/2021 toward a sustainable product path starting with additional bands for 4G (FDD and TDD) and moving to 5G, Tenorio said. The Evenstar RRUs will support the O-RAN 7.2 split architecture with RU and Central Unit-Distributed.
“The TIP community is committed to accelerating the deployment of efficient telecom infrastructure solutions, leveraging the principles of disaggregation, and enabling operator flexibility in network deployments and evolution,” Tenorio said.
Advancing on several fronts
In other news, the TIP community reported global expansion of its activities, including progress with solutions such as Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSGs) and deeper alignment with groups such as GSMA, the OpenStack Foundation (OSF) and the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance (OSA).
TIP is agnostic in terms of the organizations it draws specifications from, according to Attilio Zani, executive director of TIP. Earlier this week, TIP announced a liaison agreement with the O-RAN Alliance where they’re going to be collaborating more—sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint test and integration efforts on the open RAN front.
“We really do want to make sure that we’re expanding across all key components of what operators need and everywhere that they need them,” Zani said in an interview, noting there’s a lot going on in areas like open RAN and DCSG, but there are other areas as well where its members are demanding progress.
David del Val Latorre, president and CEO of Telefónica Research and Development who serves on the TIP board of directors, said DCSG is a good example that the TIP process actually works.
That effort started one year and four months ago by talking first with other operators about what they wanted. That led to the specification, lab trials and plugfest, and now it’s being deployed in the field. “This whole process has taken some time because it is complex, it needs time, but now we are pretty happy we are in this quarter that we are deploying in Germany more than 100 of these devices in production,” he said.
Not only do they have a piece of hardware and software that complies with the specification, it’s cheaper than what was available before, and there’s a process for making new developments in other areas, he said.
The MWC event would have seen TIP in its own booth this year, showcasing what it’s doing with a breadth of vendors, with partners in surrounding stands showing off their wares as well, according to Zani. Instead, they’ll be looking to do more at events like the Optical Networking and Communication (ONC) conference in San Diego in March.