Facebook Pushes Open Source Wireless with Telecom Infra Project
A new initiative by Facebook aims to speed the development of wireless networks by promoting more open source network components. The social network announced the launch of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) at Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona this week. Several hardware companies such as Nokia and Intel, as well as wireless providers like Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom have signed on to the project.
The goal is to increase access to high-speed wireless networks in anticipation of increasing consumer demand for access to ever more data-intensive content like streaming video and virtual reality on their mobile devices, according to Facebook.
Accelerating the Pace of Innovation
Jason Taylor, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, described the project an engineering-focused initiative working on next-generation open components. “The goal is to produce simple, efficient, and flexible technologies that are relevant to both existing and future networks,” Taylor wrote on a company blog. “By working in the open, we can accelerate the pace of innovation and put the days of monolithic, costly evolution behind us.”
One of the biggest challenges to the deployment of next-generation wireless technologies, such as the upcoming 5G standard, is the inflexibility of many network components. Existing wireless networks are typically based on monolithic deployments that make it difficult for providers to make incremental improvements by upgrading discrete elements of the network.
The result is that upgrading any one part of the network requires a complete overhaul, typically replacing almost all of the existing infrastructure. The cost-intensive nature of that approach makes providers hesitant to upgrade systems in areas that lack the customer density to justify such massive capital expenditures.
TIP’s goal is to make it less expensive for companies to upgrade their infrastructures by making wireless design more flexible, modular, and interoperable. “When it's built into the infrastructure from the beginning, the system can evolve without having to start over,” Taylor said. “Starting over is never an easy option. And flexible building blocks mean engineers deploying the network can change the shape of the infrastructure to meet the problem that they encounter.”
The OCP Model
By switching to an open source approach, wireless providers will be able to upgrade individual network components, such as compute or bandwidth, without worrying about configuration and compatibility limitations.
TIP isn’t Facebook’s first attempt at collaborating on open source technologies. Taylor also heads the company’s Open Compute Project (OCP), another open source collaboration with companies in the industry geared toward developing software and hardware for data centers.
“Where OCP addresses hardware in the data center, TIP will focus on interoperable software systems and components involved in access, backhaul, and core networks, with the goal of building an open ecosystem in which many companies can contribute to the advancement of each,” Taylor said.
The OCP has helped the company realize major cost savings while simplifying the components involved in Web service, storage, and databases, according to Facebook. The company seems to be hoping that the TIP will have a similar effect on the wireless world.
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