TIP and ONF dig deep on mobile and fixed broadband collaborations

A partnership between TIP (Telecom Infra Project) and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) goes together like peanut butter and jelly.

At this week's TIP Summit in Amsterdam, ONF and Facebook-led TIP announced an expansion of their collaboration into the mobile and fixed broadband domains. Both organizations' primary agendas include driving transformations across the telecom industry by reducing costs and increasing the availability of connectivity for end users

"The natural synergies between ONF and TIP are numerous," said ONF's Timon Sloane, vice president of marketing and ecosystem, in an email to FierceTelecom. "We're both operator driven organizations focused on transformation across the networking industry. But we are different in that ONF focuses on open software, whereas TIP's focus is on open hardware. The beauty is that hardware needs software and software needs hardware, so deepening the collaboration between our organizations makes a lot of sense."

ONF takes a software-centric approach using disaggregation, white boxes and open source for its operator members while TIP focuses on creating the availability of white box hardware for the telecom sector. The collaboration means ONF is creating open source software that can run on the TIP hardware as an optional software stack—with other stacks coming from commercial offerings or elsewhere—while TIP is pushing white box hardware that the ONF can use in its platforms and solutions.

Earlier this year, ONF announced a collaboration between its ODTN project and TIP's Open Optical and Packet Transport (OOPT) group. That work has led to an impending field trial in South America, and it demonstrated the potential for additional types of collaboration between the two organizations.

On the fixed wireless broadband front, The ONF’s SDN-Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) platform is currently focused on delivering a deployment grade platform for PON networks. Because the vision for SEBA has always been to add support for additional access technologies, ONF is working with TIP on millimeter wave (mmWave) wireless mesh networks, and the associated provisioning mechanisms and routing protocols.

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Due to interest by operators, ONF is adding mmWave as an access option under the SEBA platform. The scope for the initial collaboration will be the integration of TIP's mmWave mesh networks with the ONF SEBA architecture as part of a solution simultaneously supporting multiple access technologies.

“Deutsche Telekom believes in the essential role of open standards, hardware and software disaggregation and fast prototyping in the quick and cost effective deployment of new equipment and services,” said Dr. Andreas Gladisch, vice president, emerging technologies, technology innovation, Deutsche Telekom and co-chair of the TIP mmWave Networks Project Group, in a statement. “We welcome this initiative between TIP and ONF to explore hybrid access networks using PON, mmWave and other wired and wireless technologies under an SDN architecture.”

In the mobile domain, the ONF and TIP have ongoing work that can follow the model of pairing ONF's software with TIP's hardware platform.  There are a number of possible collaborations, including:

● Integrating TIP’s OpenRAN 5GNR hardware platforms with an enhanced version of ONF's Open Evolved Mobile Core (OMEC) platform to create a Non-Standalone (NSA) end-to-end solution.

● Integration with ONF’s ONOS-based O-RAN compliant RIC controller for 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) networks to allow for programmatic, policy-driven control of the RAN.

The mobile partnership also includes integration with ONF’s planned RAN-DU and RAN-CU software stacks based on the O-RAN architecture. ONF plans to develop those stacks based on O-RAN specification using O-RAN software community components.

ONF and TIP expect the mobile collaboration will further explore the integration with ONF’s Converged Multi-Access and Core (COMAC) platform. Work in this area can help introduce 5G as a component of a converged wired and wireless platform, enabling a new range of converged networks and services.

In February, ONF announced COMAC as its fifth reference design. The COMAC initiative was designed to unify the various access and core technologies over both mobile and broadband networks. COMAC is leveraging ONF's OMEC, which is a new open source project that also was announced February. Sloane previously said T-Mobile and Sprint plan to take OMEC into field trials this year.

“Sprint is a proponent of the power of community to accelerate network transformation and is already an active participant in the work of both TIP and ONF,” said Dr. Durga Satapathy, director of technology innovation and architecture at Sprint and co-chair of TIP OpenRAN 5GNR Project Group, in a statement. “Sprint is delighted to see TIP and ONF collaborating to accelerate open and disaggregated 5G network solutions.”

RELATED: AT&T’s Fuetsch signs on for another 2-year term at ONF

Andre Fuetsch, CTO of AT&T and president of AT&T Labs, is chair of both the ONF and the ORAN Alliance.