Deutsche Telekom and Facebook take on mmWave in new Telecom Infra Project group

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Deutsche Telekom is working with Facebook to drive innovation in mmWave technology and launching two new labs in Germany to lower barriers to entry for start-ups building new infrastructure solutions.

The German operator is co-chairing the group with Facebook as part of the social network's Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which is exploring fresh approaches to deploying network infrastructure.

The new mmWave Group will focus on building hardware and software for connectivity in the 60GHz spectrum band, aiming to create an ecosystem comprising both operators and vendors that will meet booming demand in densely populated cities.

The research will focus on fixed wireless access, mobile backhaul and smart city applications.

TIP’s goal is to overcome the limitations of mmWave bands, which offer a large amount of unused bandwidth, but suffer from poor range due to its low wavelength.

One goal of the group will be the creation of nodes combining transmitters and receivers, which can be installed on existing buildings and street furniture including utility poles and street lamps.

The nodes will be designed to be used in a mesh configuration, allowing traffic to be passed between the nodes without fibre backhaul needing to be connected to each one. They will use a commercial off-the-shelf WiGig chipset to reduce costs.

The group will also focus on building a suite of tools to help service providers in their mmWave deployments.

This will include a template for cost modelling deployments to work out the revenue benefits or cost savings, and a set of guidelines and recommendations.

It will also include software tools for testing and validating the performance of 60GHz connectivity and for modelling and planning deployments.

The project plans to build on the work of Facebook’s Terragraph solution, which successfully overcame some of the proliferation problems with mmWave.

[Read more: Facebook reveals new wireless technologies in connectivity push]

To drive mmWave innovation, Deutsche Telekom has set up an Ecosystem Acceleration Centre in Berlin, which will offer dedicated space and equipment for TIP members to develop and build new solutions.

The operator has also set up the first European TIP Community Lab in Bonn. Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn said he wanted to address the fact that few start-ups are able to innovate in the network infrastructure space. His comments dovetail with those made by Uwe Janssen, the operator's VP for Innovation, who accused the largest vendors of standing in the way of infrastructure innovation earlier this year.

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn said: “Telco is generally a market with high entry barriers and is dominated by established vendors. Small startups have problems entering the telco market, even for proof of concepts. As a result, the venture capital community has been very hesitant to make infrastructure-related investments. The TEAC center in Berlin, jointly announced by TIP, Facebook and Deutsche Telekom will help to break this deadlock.”

Andreas Gladisch, VP of Convergent Networks and Infrastructure at Deutsche Telekom and co-chair for the project group, said: “We are aiming to deliver cost efficient solutions, truly innovating within the market. We expect our work to create a vibrant open, community-driven ecosystem, that will meet the needs of telecom and city operators.”

Facebook launched the TIP in 2016 and boasts companies including SK Telecom, Intel, Nokia and Deutsche Telekom as members. It builds on the community-based R&D model of Facebook’s Open Compute Project and aims to reinvent the traditional approach to deploying network infrastructure.