Facebook gaining operator traction with TIP, just not U.S. operators so much

TIP groups are working on everything from RAN to millimeter wave and network slicing. (Facebook)

DALLAS—Facebook is very pleased with the amount of interest that it’s seen from the operators in the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). In fact, it recently added some new board members from BT, Telefonica and Vodafone, joining existing board members from Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Intel and Facebook.

In terms of the U.S. operators, however, they continue to be a no-show, at least for now. Here on the sidelines of the FierceWireless Next-Gen Wireless Networks Summit, John Morgan, who works on the project for Facebook, said he can’t speculate as to the reasons U.S. operators are not more involved. But Facebook is pleased with the amount of interest from operators in general, and it’s in discussions with the U.S. carriers, some of which are working with Facebook on other projects, such as the Open Compute Project (OCP).

TIP is all about connecting the unconnected in remote areas of the world, but that’s not its sole mission. The TIP OpenCellular Project Group promotes cost-effective and sustainable base station solutions for rural areas using an open-source platform, while other groups are working on edge computing, RAN solutions and even network slicing. 

Millimeter wave is in the mix as well. Facebook is continuing to work in the 60 GHz band, among others, and it has a 60 GHz test bed in San Jose. Terragraph is a 60 GHz system focused on bringing high-speed internet connectivity to dense urban areas; it implements a phase array antenna to retain the highly directional signal required for 60 GHz, but makes it steerable to communicate over a wide area.

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TIP recently revealed that the community is stronger than ever, with more than 500 member companies working toward common goals, which is to collaborate on new technologies, examine new business approaches and spur new investments into the telecom space. The membership compares to this time last year, when it kicked off the 2016 TIP Summit with 300 members from across the industry; members include not only operators but OEMs, system integrators and other stakeholders.

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As for when TIP might be deployed in commercial networks, that depends on the operator community, Morgan said.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also a key part of TIP. That particular committee is being led by DT and Telefonica, not necessarily by Facebook, which Morgan characterized as a good thing. DT and Telefonica are co-chairing the new AI and Machine Learning (ML) project group, with the understanding that the AI/ML group will apply AI and machine learning to network planning, operations and customer behavior identification.