Jay Parikh, the social network’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, said in a Newsroom post that the initiative—which was announced last month as the OCP Telco Project–is aimed at combining the efforts of telecommunications operators, infrastructure providers, system integrators and other technology companies to “collaborate on the development of new technologies and reimagine traditional approaches to building and deploying telecom network infrastructure.”
Partners in the initiative include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, EE, SK Telecom, Verizon Communications, Equinix and Nexius, and Parikh said of their involvement:
We know from our experience with the Open Compute Project that the best way to accelerate the pace of innovation is for companies to collaborate and to work in the open. To kick-start this work, TIP members such as Facebook, Intel and Nokia have pledged to contribute an initial suite of reference designs, while other members such as operators Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom will help define and deploy the technology as it fits their needs.
TIP members will work together to contribute designs in three areas—access, backhaul and core and management—applying the Open Compute Project models of openness and disaggregation as methods of spurring innovation. In what is a traditionally closed system, component pieces will be unbundled, affording operators more flexibility in building networks. This will result in significant gains in cost and operational efficiency for both rural and urban deployments. As the effort progresses, TIP members will work together to accelerate development of technologies like 5G that will pave the way for better connectivity and richer services.
Open Compute Project president and chairman and Facebook vice president of infrastructure Jason Taylor discussed past and future advances in mobile infrastructure, as well as the role of the Telecom Infra Project, in a blog post:
Every 10 years or so, a new generation of mobile system is introduced, starting with 1G in the early 1980s up to the 4G networks in place today. Each generation has a new set of standards based on changes in network requirements, using components that are fundamentally incompatible with previous generations. Monolithic deployments of new systems are costly, so they’re built only where populations are dense enough to make the deployment cost-effective, leaving large swaths of the world unconnected or underconnected. Inevitably, as consumer and business demands continue to increase, the existing infrastructure becomes obsolete, and entire networks must be redeployed at a significant cost.
A lot has already changed since 4G LTE hit the market, and the next several years will bring more of the same. Data traffic in the most advanced 4G LTE markets will triple in the next five years, while traffic in emerging economies is forecast to grow nine times in the same period. Not only are more people coming online, but they will have multiple connected devices. One industry group estimates that there will be more than 20 billion connected devices by 2020. By then, the amount of data exchanged over global mobile networks is expected to grow approximately eight times, to 30 exabytes per month. The next-generation networks will have to offer better coverage at higher bit rates, support a higher number of simultaneously connected devices for any given area and come with more flexibility at lower deployment costs.
As the industry begins to deploy new networks, we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at the engineering problems they present. The problems of large-scale networks are complicated. No single company today has the capacity to come up with solutions to all the challenges posed by new builds. What’s more, there isn’t likely to be a small set of cost-effective solutions that can be deployed that address the range of connectivity needs in different areas. Increasing global connectivity is going to take many companies from around the world working together to come up with a flexible array of solutions. The fastest way for this to happen is for us to work in the open.
Parikh also offered details on a pilot test conducted in the Philippines by TIP member companies:
To illustrate the advantages of testing new approaches to connectivity, Facebook, in collaboration with Globe Telecom, recently launched a pilot deployment based on TIP principles to connect a small village in the Philippines that previously did not have cellular coverage. In addition, EE is planning to work as part of TIP to pilot a community-run 4G coverage solution that can withstand the challenges presented by the remote environment of the Scottish Highlands to connect unconnected communities. Testing new technologies and approaches and sharing what we learn with the rest of the industry will enable operators to adopt new models with full confidence that they will be sustainable.
Readers: What are your initial thoughts on the Telecom Infra Project?