Kristian Toivo took over as executive director of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) in March 2022. Fierce Wireless touched base with him at MWC in Barcelona earlier this month.
TIP has made it its business to drive disaggregation of hardware and software at telecom networks around the globe. TIP currently has about 14 project groups, but the one with the most visibility continues to be its open RAN project.
A top focus of TIP’s open RAN group is to work with its members to manufacture enough radios to handle multiple spectrum bands around the globe. “For open RAN to be applicable, we need more radios, a better supply,” said Toivo.
The first open RAN radio that TIP developed was the Evenstar radio. It is a reference design for a white-box radio that any manufacturer can use to make the radio. The Evenstar radio is designed to cost customers less than $1,000.
Toivo wanted to make clear that TIP is a trade association. “Our members are the ones that develop the radios,” he said. “We provide the project environment for those members to work." He said most of the main operator members of TIP are in the open RAN group. And all the major vendors of open RAN equipment are either in the group or following its outputs.
Recently, TIP published a white paper and memorandum of understand about open RAN along with some of its members, including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Orange and Telecom Italia. These operators have committed to move toward commercial deployments of open RAN by the end of this year, and they endorsed TIP as their preferred entity to certify open RAN solutions.
The white paper said the technological gaps between traditional RAN and open RAN are starting to melt away, especially in non-complex macros such as single-band radio units. Other areas such as complex macro radios involving massive MIMO or multi-band products will take longer.
The paper said global deployments of open RAN are now reaching thousands of sites but are mainly executed by new operators in greenfield deployments. Brownfield deployments lag.
Transport and Wi-Fi
Aside from its work on open RAN, there are two other project groups that have a lot of activity in TIP: transport and Wi-Fi.
Tovio said, “The general trend is that the data volumes are increasing, and there’s continuous pressure on the transport for more capacity. TIP's Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT) project group is determining what type of specifications are required for future products through the transport networks and incentivizing diversity in the supply chain through disaggregation.
The flagship product of the OOPT group is the disaggregated cell site gateway.
The third area where TIP is getting traction is with its open Wi-Fi group. “It opens the Wi-Fi ecosystem to more flexibility,” said Toivo.
TIP OpenWi-Fi is an open source-based Wi-Fi architecture that enables multi-vendor, interoperable Wi-Fi networks.
He said there are neutral hosts such as Boingo using TIP’s open Wi-Fi and also the managed service provider Spectra in India is using it. “The TIP open Wi-Fi-based solution enables Spectra to seamlessly mix and match access points and controllers from any TIP open Wi-Fi compliant manufacturer, enabling it to easily expand its Wi-Fi footprint,” said TIP
“We continue to develop open Wi-Fi, but we’re going to launch a more market focused program to activate the ecosystem,” said Toivo.