By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
The Wi-Fi group within the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) has thus far delivered a fairly low-key but concerted attempt at making Wi-Fi better, more ubiquitous, and less costly. Then last week the organisation launched a new open-source, bottom-up vision for revamping how Wi-Fi services are deployed and delivered. TIP’s new Wi-Fi architecture scheme is ambitious – and impressive.
With more than 80% of phone traffic running over Wi-Fi in many markets, service providers of all kinds have obvious vested interest in making Wi-Fi better, less costly, and more ubiquitous – not to mention seeding innovation across the Wi-Fi industry. Enter TIP’s Wi-Fi project group, which last week launched a major drive towards a new full-stack, open-source Wi-Fi architecture.
Open-sourcing and disaggregating Wi-Fi hardware from software and services – including Cloud-based management and service delivery – has been tried before (by OpenWRT and Arista Networks, for example) – but this time it’s different: Beyond the general momentum and backing of TIP, the members of the TIP Wi-Fi group of includes talented startups such as Plume, 2018 Wi-Fi NOW Award Winners Tanaza, and Canada-based ConnectUs Technologies.
Goal: Lower costs and better Wi-Fi everywhere
Although the scheme may be new, it is already up and running: Plume, Tanaza, and ConnectUs all demonstrated Wi-Fi service and management capability at last week’s TIP Wi-Fi project group webinar attended by Wi-Fi NOW. The general idea is to disaggregate all parts of the Wi-Fi stack from the AP to the Cloud, which should – at least in theory – lead to lower costs, wider ability of third parties to deliver services, and in the end arguably also more high quality Wi-Fi in more locations.
Here’s the quick overview of how TIP and its members are doing it: Wi-Fi AP hardware will run on TIP’s open-source operating system (NOS), which includes Plume’s OpenSync middleware interface to the Cloud. The open-source NOS will be developed and maintained in part by ConnectUS, who also contributes at the top end of the stack, namely to TIP’s Cloud SDK.
On top of this sits the Cloud application layer, from which Plume and Tanaza are already capable of delivering Wi-Fi services for the home, enterprise, SMBs, and even carriers – as demonstrated during the webinar last week. TIP says their Wi-Fi architecture revamp is quite generalised and should at least in theory apply to any Wi-Fi user segment.
Will TIP & its members be successful?
The big question is of course whether the time has come for open-source Wi-Fi architecture – and how TIP’s scheme could positively impact availability and innovation in Wi-Fi services. Right now there is good evidence that open-sourcing (at least part of) the Wi-Fi delivery stack is already being embraced by big service provider names, such as Charter.
Add to this that service provider interest in a common NOS for APs – for example for enterprise managed SMB services and residential or MDU Wi-Fi – is likely significant knowing that managing a raft of disparate non-compatible Wi-Fi AP vendors is costly, complex, and scales poorly. With Wi-Fi more popular than ever and with plenty of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E (6 GHz Wi-Fi) in the pipeline, TIP is likely to find many more willing partners across the Wi-Fi industry.
TIP and Wi-Fi NOW will be partnering all through the year on bringing you the latest information on TIP’s Wi-Fi initiatives. TIP Wi-Fi project group members will be presenting and sharing knowledge at all of our Wi-Fi World Congress events this year including in Redwood City, CA this May 11-14 and later this year at Wi-Fi World Congress Europe. Register now secure your space.