As the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) prepares for its second FYUZ event, Mobile World Live caught up with the group’s executive director Kristian Toivo (pictured) to find out what he expects to be the hot topics.
The latest event continues the cookery analogy developed for the inaugural running in 2022, a nod to how creating open networks is similar to combining various ingredients to create dishes.
Toivo noted TIP is focusing on its latest initiatives around open Wi-Fi, and Optical and Packet Transport in addition to the broader open RAN theme.
The executive explained the appetite for a second FYUZ is high, with industry stakeholders showing a clear interest in the event and expressing “an ambition that is higher than” 2022 in terms of the agenda.
Toivo said FYUZ 2023 is on track to reach “a similar order of magnitude” as the first edition in terms of participation, with demand across the board for an event which offers the “opportunity to meet the right stakeholders for a particular segment of the industry”.
The intervening 12 months have seen “steady progress in a number of areas, some really positive development”, Toivo explained, adding there has also been “clarification of the challenges we face”.
TIP began targeting the optical packet transport sector earlier this year and is “already in the first phases of true commercial deployment”, albeit “more remains to be done”.
He highlighted open Wi-Fi as “a bit of a different beast”, bringing TIP into contact with an alternative set of stakeholders from its core open RAN sector.
Ultimately, Toivo expects a merging of the interests of the various groups involved in TIP’s Wi-Fi and RAN efforts, though he emphasised the group is not losing focus on its core networking moves, keeping pace with a still complex ecosystem which is “transforming itself” as attention shifts towards industrialisation and commercial deployments.
With the groundwork across each focus area largely established in terms of working groups and other collaborations, Toivo said TIP is now also beginning to eye fresh areas which participants have identified as likely to “have a profound impact” on the industry “either in the way you develop and implement products and solutions, or the way you operate them”.
Chief among these is AI, which Toivo conceded the industry as a whole is currently “only scraping the surface” of, but which has the potential to deliver a “fundamental transformation over the next years”.
Cloud developments are another pillar of TIP’s current and future focus: Toivo noted there remains “work to be done in charting out” a broad strategy to deliver set-ups compatible with numerous “alternative strategies” which enable “disaggregated technologies and platforms”, while keeping a keen eye on ensuring these are as efficient as possible.
Chipsets will play a key part in delivering on the potential of AI and further cloud developments, Toivo explained, citing the use of silicon to advance hardware disaggregation for open RAN and beyond.
Silicon “actually impacts also fixed networks and optical solutions, because you just need more silicon-based solutions for creating, let’s say the right capabilities”, cost points and “power-consumption model”.
TIP remains keen to push disaggregation deeper than the RAN, with Toivo highlighting fixed broadband as an opportunity, particularly around open fibre networks.
The executive believes the challenge in the open RAN sphere now lies more in “process and transformation load” than the technical side, though he noted TIP must not ease up on its mission to bring various stakeholders together to overcome potential challenges.
Legacy equipment and corporate cultures spanning almost 30 years are, of course, still a challenge when promoting openness and disaggregation in fixed and mobile networks.
Budget planning and equipment lifetimes are another challenge Toivo highlighted, noting a typical seven-year “depreciation period for most of the kit you put in…certainly in the mobile network”, meaning even when TIP and its stakeholders propose a set-up they believe is better than the old ways, there is a degree of persuasion involved in getting businesses to pay for it.
It is a challenge incumbent to the mobile industry. Consider making the case first for GSM and then subsequent technology generations to operators, an approach largely still underway today as the industry talks 6G while many companies are still investing heavily in 5G.
Toivo said it had become “fundamentally clear” to him over the past 12 months that there is a need for carrier-grade integration, a concept discussed in detail at the first FYUZ event.
“This is devilishly hard because you come from a situation where you basically take a disaggregated set of components and you’re supposed to put them together,” ensure it “performs as well as or better than” legacy equipment and then work to match this with the services on offer.
Toivo argued the sector has moved beyond peak hype and is “passing that valley and starting to go into that more mature thinking” where the industry is focusing on eradicating obstacles for specific fields of development.
He predicts some interesting discussion of these challenges during FYUZ, an event he noted will offer real-world examples of open RAN and disaggregation moves by a host of established operators.
The participation of companies including Vodafone Group, NTT Docomo and MTN Group, among others, highlights open RAN is not necessarily restricted to new entrants, though Toivo noted the involvement of so-called greenfield operators is equally important because “you need both sides of the story”.
“I think you need those trailblazers and people who’ve been kind of able to execute faster”, he continued, citing Rakuten Group and Dish Network as examples of companies which have “launched and built networks while the technology was evolving”.
Equally, though, Toivo sees the questions posed by established players as essential to developing open and disaggregated technology, noting they help to build momentum around new approaches, something which will be discussed in several case studies during FYUZ keynotes.
Keep your eyes peeled for more from FYUZ 2023 in the coming days and stay tuned for live coverage of the event, which is scheduled to take place in Madrid from 9 October to 11 October.