Today I would like to introduce you to an organization called TIP, an extended Telecom Infra Project (TIPcommunity). I will describe what projects they are working on, who patrons them, and what good the work of this organization will give users of telecommunications and Internet services.
TIPcommunity’s mission and purpose
Let’s start with TIP’s mission because that explains a lot: “We believe accelerating innovation, coupled with new business approaches and cost-effectiveness, will help the industry build the networks of the future and create business opportunities for both new and existing businesses.”
Combining innovation with cost-effectiveness, but above all creating technical solutions for specific business goals that have real and present business sense. I fully agree with such assumptions. Working for operators, I have always invested wisely in innovative technologies (some people know something about it ?) and only when these products could be used “here and now”.
I have seen many standards that went on the shelf because they were the vision of engineers and architects, and not responding to the client’s needs. Unfortunately, this is often the case even with the currently promoted 5G standards, as we will probably see in the next few years. For this reason, more and more 5g 3GPP affiliate organizations are being formed to make the technology follow the customer’s voice.
For example, the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), which focuses on the use of 5G techniques in-vehicle control and traffic control in the V2X standard, or 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5GACIA), which brings together companies that want to promote and implement factories of the future based on the standard ” Industry 4.0 ”.
Who founded TIPcommunity and why? It all started with the vision of Facebook, which assumed that the Internet should be available all over the world, for everyone in the world. In 2016, he founded, together with several other HP Enterprise companies, Canonical, and then global mobile operators Deutsche telecom and Telefonica, a community that is to create technologies that will help everyone in the world have access to the Internet.
Today, TIPcommunity brings together over 500 members from areas such as telecommunications operators, Internet providers, hardware suppliers, software suppliers, etc. It is a huge community. At the last TIPSummit2019 meeting, almost 1,000 people participated in discussions and development work.
What makes TIPcommunity different from 3GPP standardization bodies is the vision of a specific business purpose and low cost. I will develop these threads further.
Likewise, whether he wanted to or not, Facebook became a sponsor of alternative techniques that will help quickly and cheaply develop telecommunications and Internet services, not looking from the perspective, only or mainly from the profit of precisely defined suppliers who control expensive technologies today.
TIPcommunity project groups and community techniques
As of today, TIP deals with three strategic areas: access networks, transport networks, and Core networks with services. Each of these three areas is divided into projects. I will describe the goals of each of them and mention which projects are particularly important for the development of mobile telephony.
This is the most important group in TIPcommunity because it deals with the creation of cheap and modern techniques and methods of connecting customers all over the world to the Internet and telecommunications services. The main task is to remove barriers preventing the development of the Internet in places that are difficult to access or where the construction of the network is not profitable for operators, the so-called white spots. This group oversees the work of several projects.
The project, whose task is to create a small radio cell (small cell) covering good quality 4G/LTE interior spaces. Apparently, nothing extraordinary, because similar solutions are proposed today by Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, ZTE, and Samsung (the name of this group in this article is “Big Five”). The CrowdCell project group is to create a device based on a standard computer and small radio devices, controlled by software based on open source. Simply the low cost of the device (CAPEX) and its maintenance (OPEX).
It is a project that aims to connect those areas outside of cities where there is no other coverage – covering white spots. Many users in Poland have a problem with this, but in fact, this project is mainly to deal with places such as villages in Africa or the jungle in South America, towns in the high mountains like the current project in Peru, etc.
As in the previous project, it has equipment that is cheaper to produce and maintain, and most of all, controlled with the use of open-source-based software. This project is sponsored by TIP which allows receiving grants for the development of low-cost techniques and software. This is related to the primary and overarching goal of Facebook, which is to reach parts of the world with the Internet where no one has wanted to invest so far.
Open Ran project
This is another groundbreaking project that aims to build 2G, 3G, and 4G cellular networks based on standard hardware, cheap radio modules, and vendor-specific software. It is to be a fully programmable solution, compliant with 3GPP standards.
The most important thing, however, is that the software manufacturer can freely modify the algorithms and parameters in the network without the need to replace specialized, very expensive hardware.
Let me just mention that so far it has not been possible in the case of solutions from the Big Five, so it is a revolution in the approach.
The survey below shows how much mobile operators are waiting for such an interesting solution to appear on the market. The first is Rakuten Mobile, which 2020 is launching a mobile network in Japan based on the assumptions and achievements of the Open Ran project.
Open Ran 5G project NR
This is an extension of the Open Ran project, with the creation of a universal device in the 5G standard. I admit that I haven’t figured out why this group works independently of Open Ran.
VRAN Fronthaul project
This is a specialized project to develop techniques for connecting radio devices with vBBU radio controllers through access networks, an alternative to optical fibers, i.e. microwave links, managed Ethernet, G.Fast, GPON, a hybrid of optical fiber, and copper links. A non-trivial and very important topic, because kilometers of optical fiber cannot be laid/pulled everywhere.
This is a group whose task is to create alternative access networks to cellular networks, commonly known as data offload. In places where it does not make sense or there is no possibility to build cellular networks, you can offer the customer telecommunications services based on an operator-controlled WiFi network.
Projects from the group of access networks in the TIPcommunity are the main driving force behind the development of simpler and cheaper, but also modern 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile networks, but above all in a much more flexible methodology of open software and standard computer hardware and radio devices, from any supplier or suppliers.
This group of experts focuses on creating “better” transport networks, i.e. connecting the access networks with the Core network, whose main features will be scalability, fast convergence (i.e. combining different types of access networks), ease of configuration, and meeting the challenges related to the continuous development of cellular networks.
The most important project in this group is to develop cheap, very fast access lines based on millimeter radio waves in the range from 30GHz to 300GHz. In many places, it is not possible to pull an optical fiber or a cable link and there have been microwave links ranging from about 7GHz to 32GHz for decades.
Adapting the higher bands to microwave communication will allow increasing the speed of the Internet because these are slow bands with a very wide band. Therefore, you can simply make fast links, although with a smaller range of operation. The first 60GHz microwave links were used in Asia in the Internet service coverage project. This is a very interesting band, and I’m sure mobile operators will be interested in 60GHz solutions quite quickly, especially from TIPcommunity compliant providers.
NoN-Terrestrial Connectivity Solutions
It is a project group whose task is to develop reliable communication based on satellite links. A difficult area where the issues of delays and limited speed were the main barriers to the development of the technology used 20-30 years ago. Currently, the topic has returned, because several global satellite network providers have appeared, such as Elon Muska’s company, which wants to launch thousands of satellites for communication into orbit.
Open Box Microwave
It is an amazing group whose goal is to create a standard of transport network devices that meet the high requirements of 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile networks in the area of reliability, low latency, and high speeds (bandwidth). In addition, the standard is to provide modular devices that will allow you to freely configure a set consisting of such modules as the router, switch, ODU microwave device driver, and multi-path ODU.
Such configured sets will allow you to avoid investing in “excessively” prepared by current manufacturers’ “everything with” products.
Open Optical & Packet Transport
The last design group creates techniques, architecture, and interfaces in the field of optical networks and IP networks. Its main assumption is to create open technologies, independent of existing suppliers only, and also create concepts of modular solutions.
Core network and services
The third and last project group deals with the simplification of the Core network architecture and value-added services so that the costs of maintaining and developing the network are as low as possible, but at the same time give a lot of freedom in the development of architecture along with the expansion of access networks.
Edge Application Developer
This is a laboratory where you can test applications on the Edge infrastructure in practice.
End-2End Network Slicing
A project group tasked with developing commercial Network Slicing solutions. This is a completely new technique that allows operators to divide the network into “slices” of the network, within which the customer will be provided with his own quality parameters. In this case, the client of the “patch” can be any company, uniformed services, a city with IoT services, or, finally, a factory with the “Industry 4.0” technique.
This is one of the most important issues in 5G cellular networks, as it will allow for the introduction of completely new mechanisms of supervision and quality control of connections.
There are a lot of project groups and there may still be more.
If necessary, TIPcommnutiy is able to create new projects. The following projects are waiting for approval in the freezer: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Edge Computing, People and Process, Power and Connectivity, Solutions Integration, and System Integration & Site Optimization.
What else does TIPcommunity offer
TIP is not only about project groups. What additionally deserves special attention is the TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC), i.e. places where young application developers, entrepreneurs, and hardware and software producers can test their concepts together in practical applications. There are four centers in Great Britain, Germany, Paris, and Seoul.
However, what impressed me the most was the creation of laboratories where devices and software from the above project groups can be tested together. In these places (Seoul, Berlin, Colorado, California, Rio De Janeiro, Manesar in India, and Ipswitch in Great Britain), producers can meet for joint or individual tests of their products.
The principle of working in laboratories is a purely creative environment with the principles of openness, hacker mentality, rapid prototyping of ideas, and a positive approach to failure. This sounds more like a mad creator workshop than planned, strictly defined tests prepared and conducted by the engineers themselves.
The establishment of laboratories is particularly important to help validate the concept of openness and independence from a single supplier. Any member of the TIP community can use them.
A higher level of testing TIPcommunity is a project group Plugfest, whose task is ready to test solutions before offering them commercially. In this case, the TIP engineering group helps with testing and certification.
The last thing that needs to be said especially clearly is TIP Exchange, which is a store with products that comply with TIP standards and designs.
It is an absolutely stunning market where you can find products ready to buy and tested by PlugFest today, i.e. certified (TIP PlugFest Badge ), products that can be purchased/borrowed for online testing, not fully commercialized, but offering great potential for experimentation with different products (TIP Field Trial Badge ).
The third group in the store is products ready for testing in laboratories, i.e. only for testing (TIP Community Labs Badge), and a last fourth group is a group exchanging documentation, technological ideas, software projects, and device designs. Such documents are first verified if they meet the TIP (Blueprint Badge) standards. This is another brilliant concept that allows TIP project techniques to be quickly spread across the community.
I definitely recommend visiting TIP Exchange and exploring the shelves, reading about products that are in fact within reach.
TIP Summit 2019
The huge TIP Summit 2019 was held in November 2019 in Amsterdam. I was there and I must say that I am very impressed with the resilience of this community.
In my opinion, this is one of those organizations that will in practice change the world of telecommunications and the Internet, because everyone has understood that the 5G standard itself is not a product. The product is to satisfy the customer’s needs.
In this forum, two operators made a huge breakthrough in the construction of the 5G network. The operator Vodafone announced that the tender for all mobile networks in Europe will be prepared on the basis of the Open Ran standard. Let me just mention that the Big Five for today do not want to actively participate in the work of TIP. Nokia and Ericsson are members of O-RAN and the TIPcommunity.
The case of the operator Vodafone showed that the Big Five saw the risk of non-delivery of 5G products in Europe. This is a matter of losing approximately 100,000 base stations. What’s more, Vodafone does not exclude swap, i.e. replacement of old base stations with new ones, compatible with Open Ran. For suppliers, this means the complete elimination of such an important operator.
The second breakthrough announcement was the joining of the community of the operator from Japan, Rakuten Mobile, which intends to commercially launch a 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile network fully based on the Open Ran standard in 2020, without the participation of the Big Five.
The revolution has begun. I am joining this revolution, and you?
The Big Five provide great technologies, but in the past, for example, mobile phones were only produced by these manufacturers. Unfortunately, after the advent of open operating systems for Android and IOS phones, the world of mobile telephony has taken on completely new dimensions.
Smartphones have entered the market, taking the customer to the world of mobile Internet. As a corollary, I predict that the same thing will happen in the world of network equipment manufacturers within a few years. It’s time to change and introduce the creativity of hundreds or maybe even thousands of small alternative producers who have great ideas.
When Facebook started the TIPcommunity project with its partners in 2016, it probably did not agree that it would be the beginning of a great revolution in the world of suppliers of products for building mobile networks. Every great project, a new standard requires a sponsor, requires an investor.
TIPcommunity has mixed things up and will keep mixing. I will come back to the TIPcommunity and to the Open RAN association more than once this year.