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.
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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.