Facebook seeing plenty of momentum for TIP ahead of London summit

Facebook campus
Facebook's connectivity team, based at its Menlo Park campus, will be sharing updates on TIP in the not-so-distant future. (FierceWireless)

MENLO PARK, Calif.—Facebook and its partners will be convening later this month in London for the TIP Summit 2018, and already the two-year-old initiative is talking equipment procurement and deployment.

“There’s plenty of partner momentum,” said Aaron Bernstein, Facebook's Connectivity Ecosystem Programs director and TIP board member, noting the diverse presence of members both from a geographical and industry point of view.

The fact that there are actual procurements happening and deployments to talk about make it a particularly exciting time—significant progress considering they were just forming this entity two years ago, and already solutions are being deployed in the field. Employees for the city of San Jose, for example, are providing feedback about how they’re using a 60 GHz network.

“I think the power of the ecosystem is really going to take it to the next level because we’re all going to be learning together,” including vendors, operators and others in terms of making the solutions more directly applicable to operators with the right features and at the right cost, Bernstein told FierceWirelessTech.

Fundamentally, Facebook is interested in bringing connectivity to more people, but it’s also about bringing better connectivity to more people. A 2G or 3G system just isn’t going to cut it in a lot of places, and 5G isn’t going to reach rural areas for years to come.

“Facebook is focused on how do we help bring more people online at a faster speed working with the industry,” he said, emphasizing the cooperation required. There are many potential bottlenecks to better connectivity, so it’s paramount that TIP works closely with operators, technology providers, systems integrators and other entities, including 3GPP and the GSMA, to work collaboratively to figure out how to make things better.

“There are lots and lots of obstacles for us to work together to overcome and this is not about an us-versus-them,” he said. “It’s about how do we work together in collaboration.”

It’s worth noting there are more than a dozen project groups within TIP, including the OpenRAN Project Group, which is focused on the development of fully programmable RAN solutions based on general purpose processing platforms and disaggregated software. The project group was formed to harness the benefits software-driven development can bring to RAN, including greater network flexibility and a faster pace of innovation.

It’s also notable that Facebook isn’t looking for handouts here. It realizes companies need to make money, and the TIP endeavor has to be sustainable. There are some project groups that are based on open source, but there are others that are based on RAN or reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing schemes, and that allows for companies that want to charge for their IP or their technology to do so. “This is about us helping to create new businesses” from startups all the way up to business for big established companies.

TIP emerged after operators approached Facebook in the 2015 time frame. Facebook at that time was leading the Open Compute Project, which is still alive and well but it prompted a number of operators to see if some of the same Open Compute principles could be applied to TIP. That led to the formation of TIP and its many project groups, which are set to provide updates on their progress at the summit in London later this month.