TIP OpenWiFi wants to get cozy with MSOs

SCTE CABLE-TEC EXPO – The Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP) sixteen-month-old OpenWiFi initiative is looking to make inroads with residential cable and fiber operators alike, aiming to build on early success it has achieved with managed service providers in the enterprise space. At stake is the opportunity to get its platform deployed on hundreds of millions of endpoints across the globe.

TIP OpenWiFi is an open-source platform that offers both access point firmware and a cloud controller SDK. Howard Buzick, who works on business generation for TIP OpenWiFi, told Fierce this setup allows operators to use the same software and cloud controller for both indoor and outdoor access points, helping cut complexity and cost.

The initiative launched in May 2021 with the debut of its 1.0 specification and has been steadily adding “table stakes” features over the past year, Buzick said. It is now on its 2.6 specification, with another update on the way.

According to Buzick, OpenWiFi initially focused on pitching its platform to managed service providers operating in the enterprise space, looking to get its foot in the door with early adopters of bleeding edge technology. It’s now beginning to turn its attention to cable operators, who Buzick said tend to be fast followers in the market.

Already it’s in field trials with a handful of MSOs – fewer than 10, Buzick said – and is beginning conversations with several more. While it’s hopeful the trials will lead to deployments, he noted lab and field testing take time.

OpenWiFi is also interested in working with fiber players, especially those looking to offer managed Wi-Fi services to their broadband customers.

“We can add value when they’re bundling Wi-Fi in with it,” he said. “That should be a growing market, because people don’t want to deal with” Wi-Fi issues.

The cable industry offers a tantalizing opportunity for TIP OpenWiFi, with hundreds of millions of WiFi hotspots across the globe. In the U.S., Comcast alone has around 19 million hotspots, including 1.5 public access points. Charter Communications, meanwhile, has around a half million out-of-home Spectrum WiFi access points.

More broadly, Cisco in 2020 forecast the number of Wi-Fi hotspots globally would grow to nearly 628 million by 2023, marking a four-fold increase from 169 million in 2018.  

TIP OpenWiFi is jockeying for position against the likes of Cisco, Aruba and Ruckus. But Buzick said it has a leg up on such incumbents in one critical area: supply chain.

“We have a lot of diversity as far as where everything is being manufactured as well. So that’s interesting because it leads us to have fewer troubles with supply chain than a lot of people in the industry have had so far,” he said. “We can still deliver solutions to people who are deploying now in about six to eight weeks” whereas a lot of incumbent vendors are facing lead times as long as 52 weeks, he continued.

Buzick concluded TIP OpenWiFi remains in the “late bootstrap phase” but is hoping to have more news to share in the next three to six months.