Verizon, Vodafone, others remain cool to Facebook's TIP network project

BARCELONA, Spain -- Executives from a handful of top carriers said they will evaluate Facebook's new Telecom Infra Project (TIP), but they generally offered a lukewarm view of Facebook's stated effort to develop new technologies "and reimagine traditional approaches to building and deploying" networks.

"We'll take a look at TIP when it's a little more mature," said Verizon's Adam Koeppe, VP of the carrier's access technology planning, during a press event here at the Mobile World Congress trade show. "TIP is being looked at."

"We'll make use of everything we can," said Matt Beal, Vodafone's technology strategy and architecture director, explaining that the carrier would use technologies including open source software to improve its network and services. But Beal stopped short of saying Vodafone would participate in TIP.

Facebook announced TIP earlier this week as an offshoot of its Open Compute Project (OCP), which is focused on data-center storage and networking equipment. Facebook said TIP members will collaborate to contribute designs of hardware and software for network access, backhaul, core management and more, and will use an open source platform to foster collaboration and spur innovation, including for 5G.

Nokia and Intel have already signed on to the project and will work with Facebook to produce initial designs. Network operators Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom are also listed among TIP's members. However, notably absent from TIP's lineup are major infrastructure providers like Ericsson and Huawei and U.S. operators like AT&T.

Although Verizon's Koeppe said the carrier isn't currently participating in TIP, he noted Verizon works with Facebook on other projects. He pointed out that Verizon was among a handful of carriers -- including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, EE and SK Telecom -- that joined Facebook's OCP earlier this year. Koeppe also said Verizon has already made use of open source software, specifically mentioning the carrier's work with OpenStack.

Others in the wireless industry are taking a relatively dim view of Facebook's TIP effort.

"The industry does not need another initiative that further fragments players rather than bringing them together in a common approach," said Ovum analyst Paul Lambert of Facebook's new program. "TIP should be applauded for bringing together major players from different parts of the ecosystem, covering networks, services, chipsets, and service providers, with a particular eye on 5G architecture. But the project's success will be gauged on how many of the other major players it can bring on board by converting them to both its broad strategy and the specifics of its approach. Unless TIP can show that it is more than a way for certain players to take market share it will simply join the many initiatives vying for relevance, especially around defining 5G systems."

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