LIVE FROM 5G ASIA, SINGAPORE: Facebook revealed new supporters of its telecoms network initiative, Telecom Infra Project (TIP), and reassured operators it has no intention of becoming a direct competitor.
Subbu Subramanian, Facebook’s engineering director, said TIP has gained momentum over the past seven months and has signed up a number of new operator members, including Axiata, Globe Telecom, Indosat Ooredoo, MyRepublic and Vodafone, as well as more than a dozen vendors.
He said the company has taken the principles it used in its Open Compute Project, which is focused on improving the efficiency of data centres, and brought them to the telecoms space, with the launch of TIP at Mobile World Congress in February.
The initiative, co-founded by Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, Intel, Nokia and Facebook, is looking at finding more efficient ways to build out mobile networks. Its key focus areas are access, backhaul and the core.
“We are focused on efficiency and flexibility and are rethinking how to deploy existing technology. Clearly this is not a small undertaking, and no one company can do it alone. We know from experience that openness and collaboration can help everyone more faster in unlocking new efficiencies,” he explained.
He tried to reassure the audience that its goal is not to become a telecom operator. “We don’t want to operate networks. But what we want is for the technology to get better as soon as can be. We’re looking at 10x more efficiency, 10x more cost savings, 10x more capacity and doing it by working together.”
“It’s a long road, with many challenges. We look forward to working together on TIP,” he said.
Range of solutions
Subramanian outlined a couple of its many bold network initiatives it is working on to bring access to the estimated 4.2 billion people who aren’t connected. These include Aquila, its high-altitude solar-power aircraft that beams signals down to remote areas. It is expected to have a range of 20km and stay in the air for months at a time.
Another is its proof-of-concept Aries project, which is a base station with 96 antennas. A population density study across 20 countries found that 90 per cent of people live within 40km of major cities. “Aries can be used to extend coverage from city centres to remote communities without having to provide costly backhaul.”
But the company isn’t just looking at improving access in rural and remote areas. Urban areas, he said, are experiencing a different problem, with backhaul capacity unable to keep up with demand. Its Terragraph solution aims to address this issue with distributed nodes deployed at street level, bringing Ethernet access to buildings.
“We need to use different types of technologies to address the needs of different communities with different population densities,” he said. A lot of the technology used to connect the unconnected can also be applied to increasing capacity and meeting the needs of users in the 5G era.
More than a billion users now access the Facebook ecosystem via mobile each month, with billions of people using its expanding family of apps, he said.