BARCELONA, Spain — Facebook teamed up with several carriers including Nokia, BT, and Deutsche Telekom to advance two of its wireless networking initiatives, Terragraph and OpenCellular, to “bring more people online,” according to Jay Parikh, Facebook’s head of engineering and infrastructure. Of course, these efforts will also bring more people to Facebook.
Facebook first launched Terragraph, a millimeter-wave, multi-node wireless backhaul system, in 2016. It is focused on bringing high-speed Internet connectivity to dense urban areas.
That same year, Facebook introduced an open source wireless access platform called OpenCellular.
Today at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Facebook announced trials with Nokia and Deutsche Telekom that will see the carriers deploy Terragraph. In one of the field trials, Nokia will combine its wireless passive optical network (WPON) with Terragraph’s mesh-routing and multi-hop capabilities for global gigabit broadband trials in 2018.
Additionally, Deutsche Telekom, which is evaluating millimeter-wave technology use across Europe, will deploy a Terragraph field trial in the Budapest area via Magyar Telekom, the largest Hungarian telecommunications company and a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.
“We strongly believe this millimeter-wave technology can be one of the exponential innovations and solutions of the operator community — not just conventional mobile systems, but to expand mobile service covering autonomous driving, smart city solutions,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, Deutsche Telekom’s SVP of research and technology innovation, in a press conference with Facebook and other Telecom Infra Project (TIP) members.
The carrier is planning to do “aggressive testing” in Hungary, Choi said, adding that it’s “not just a prototype, not just a proof of concept, it’s going to be much more tangible and hopefully commercially deployed in the near future.”
Facebook is also partnering with Telenor to conduct a Terragraph production field trial in Kuala Lumpur.
Additionally, it collaborated with Intel and Radwin on a reference design for Terragraph-certified 60 GHz solutions for service providers based on the Intel architecture.
In terms of its OpenCellular progress, Facebook said it is building on a partnership with Telefonica, announced last year, to extend mobile coverage in rural areas of Peru. “We’ve connected about 20,000 people in Peru,” Parikh said at Mobile World Congress.
Facebook and Telefonica today said they will work to extend rural connectivity to more Latin American countries. They recently began a test to connect remote communities in Peru with 3G and 4G wireless based on general-purpose processing platforms. Telefonica also plans to test Facebook’s OpenCellular LTE RAN platform.
Facebook is also launching separate OpenCellular initiatives with Orange and Vodacom in Africa, and a trial with Telenor in Pakistan.
Finally, a joint trial with BT, Nokia, and Cavium will demonstrate interoperability between the OpenCellular platform and the Nokia community hosted network. According to Facebook, this will enable cloud-based remote auto-connection, configuration, and monitoring of the OpenCellular base station. It will initially be trialed in remote rural communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
All of these trials are being conducted in partnership with TIP members. Facebook co-founded TIP in 2016, along with Intel, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, and SK Telecom. Its mission is similar to that of the Open Compute Project (OCP) in terms of disaggregating software and hardware. TIP’s focus, however, is telecom specific in its work to develop and deploy new networking technologies.
Its members include more than 500 Internet companies, telcos, vendors, and system integrators. Today at Mobile World Congress, the group announced three new members: China Unicom, Sprint, and Telenor.
TIP members today also provided an update about its OpenRAN group, which Vodafone contributed to TIP in April 2017. This group aims to develop radio access network (RAN) technologies based on General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software. It says this will reduce the costs associated with building mobile networks and make it easier for smaller vendors to enter the market.
Vodafone Chief Technology Officer Johan Wibergh said the carrier tested the technology for six months in India, and it plans to deploy 200 base stations in Africa during the second quarter of 2018. “We have been able to reduce the cost to operate by more than 30 percent, using a much more open architecture, by being able to source components from different pieces,” Wibergh said.
In a separate announcement, ADVA, BT, and Mavenir today said they are testing virtual RAN (vRAN) technologies as part of TIP. The project, at the UK’s TIP Community Lab, will work to reduce the cost of network deployments by using “non-ideal” fronthaul technologies that have previously been rejected.
As it turns out, vRAN is a very hot topic at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Also today, Verizon announced it partnered with Intel and Nokia to develop a vRAN architecture. And Cisco announced a new open vRAN initiative that includes Intel, Mavenir, Altiostar, Aricent, Phazr, Red Hat, and Tech Mahindra.
Photo: TIP press conference panel. From left: Facebook’s Head of Engineering and Infrastructure Jay Parikh, Vodafone Chief Technology Officer Johan Wibergh, Deutsche Telekom’s SVP of Research and Technology Innovation Alex Jinsung Choi, Telenor Group’s CTO Ruza Sabanovic, Orange Labs Networks SVP Emmanuel Lugagne, and Telefonica Technology and Architecture Director Juan Carlos Garcia.