TIP Tackles Network Slicing, Artificial Intelligence, and Open RAN

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) launched three new project groups at its second annual TIP summit. The groups will tackle network slicing, artificial intelligence (AI), and open radio access networks (RAN).

Facebook co-founded TIP in 2016, along with IntelNokia, 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.

The TIP board started with two operators in 2016 (SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom). At the summit, Axel Clauberg, VP of technology and innovation at Deutsche Telekom and chairman of the TIP board, announced that three more operators joined the board: BT, Telefonica, and Vodafone.

“TIP is truly operator-focused,” Clauberg said. “It’s called Telecom Infrastructure Project, and I really count on the operators to continue contributing to TIP and to take us to new heights.” This includes testing and deploying the new software and hardware contributed to TIP, he added.

“My big goal for next year is to get into the deployment stage,” Clauberg said. “We are working on deployable technology. [In 2018] I want to be measured on whether we are successfully entering that stage.”

TIP divides its work into three areas — access, backhaul, and core and management — and each of the project groups falls under one of the three. Of the three new projects, artificial intelligence and applied machine learning (AI/ML) as well as end-to-end network slicing (E2E-NS) fit under the core and management area, while openRAN is an access project.

New TIP Project Groups

The AI/ML group, led by Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica, will focus on using machine learning and automation to help carriers keep pace with the growth in network size, traffic volume, and service complexity. It will also work to accelerate deployment of new over-the-top services, autonomous vehicles, drones, and augmented reality/virtual reality.

Network slicing creates multiple networks that share the same physical infrastructure. This allows operators to dedicate a portion of their network to a certain functionality and should make it easier for them to deploy 5G-enabled applications. The E2E-NS group, co-chaired by BT and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), will work to help operators overcome challenges of employing network slicing to support their 5G services.

“We’re going to build these use-case demonstrations,” said Mansoor Hanif, director of converged networks and innovation at BT. “If you’re going to do something as difficult and complex as network slicing, you might as well do it right.”

Vodafone has been working on software-defined RAN for the past year, and it’s now contributing the project to TIP. Vodafone and Intel will lead the openRAN group, which will develop RAN technologies based on General Purpose Processing Platforms (GPPP) and disaggregated software.

“This is the opening of a system that runs radio as a software on top of general purpose processes and interworks with independent radio,” said Santiago Tenorio, head of networks at Vodafone Group. The project will work to reduce the costs associated with building mobile networks and make it easier for smaller vendors to enter the market.

“By opening the system will we get a lower cost base? Definitely yes,” Tenorio said. “Absolutely yes.”

Photo: Axel Clauberg, VP of technology and innovation at Deutsche Telekom and chairman of the TIP board, delivers a keynote at the TIP Summit.