The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) announced the launch of OpenWiFi Release 1.0, which is a community-developed project that encompasses Access Point hardware, an open-source AP operating system, and an SDK to build cloud-native Wi-Fi Controller software for Service Providers (SPs) and Enterprises. TIP is also starting lab and field trials. At the end of this post, we’ll address the question of “will open-source Wi-Fi upset the enterprise Wi-Fi industry?”
Here are some of the points made by presenters at the OpenWiFi launch:
OpenWiFi is compatible across multiple markets like enterprise, SP and consumer. Boingo’s Derek Peterson said a significant benefit of OpenWiFi is that this system can be applied to various Wi-Fi markets, like consumer/home, enterprise, large venue, multi-tenant venues and SP networks. He shared that no single commercial system spans across the various consumer, SP and enterprise markets. Boingo is actively testing OpenWiFi, and he looks forward to deploying it; Boingo has a goal to “get to 100,000’s,” which we assume means users.
OpenWiFi can be used with others’ components, including Access Points and operating systems. Dan Rabinovitsj, who leads Facebook Connectivity said that OpenWiFi is an open system. Even though OpenWiFi offers its own operating system, it is easy to use OpenWiFi with OpenWRT, a operating system for consumer-focused Wi-Fi routers. Additionally, OpenWiFi can be used with various different hardware such as those from Edgecore and TP-Link. Below is a representative list of participants in the webinar and sponsors of the event.
Initial support for OpenWiFi is meaningful. The OpenWiFi community includes over 100 participants. SPs, hardware companies, standards bodies, and software companies.
Roaming capabilities are inherent in OpenWiFi. OpenRoaming, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) Passpoint 2.0, and Google’s Orion OpenRoaming service are all supported in OpenWiFi. Some Wi-Fi OEMs have been promoting proprietary roaming capabilities. By offering compatibility with these open roaming systems, more Wi-Fi users will be able to bounce between various networks in the future.
Disruption of existing Wi-Fi industry, according to presenters at the event. FB Connectivity’s Dan Rabinovitsj thinks that existing OEMs will see OpenWiFi as threatening. On the other hand, Rabinovitsj does not expect existing enterprises to adopt OpenWiFi based systems; but for SPs, he expects them to adopt OpenWiFi. Boingo’s Peterson said the industry must change because SPs are not just building networks; they are building experiences and systems focused on various use-cases. Deutsche Telekom’s Daniel Brower commented that by using OpenWiFi, this can reduce the likelihood that it will be subject to vendor lock-in.
Participating hardware players comments were interesting. Edgecore/Accton’s Edgar Masri says his company is buying more inventory than normal because lead times are longer than usual; Edgecore expects the supply chain issues will persists for about two years. CIG says WiFi chipset lead times are around 52 weeks; CIG plans to ship its Wi-Fi 6E based Access Points by the end of 2021. Qualcomm’s Nick Kucharewski promoted Wi-Fi 7 at the event; and Kucharewski also said that product shortages may be partially addressed by adopting OpenWiFi because those who use it can buy hardware from various OEMs and ODMs instead of being locked into one.
TIP plans to incorporate cellular capabilities in the future. Doron Givoni, Solution Architect at Facebook, described TIP’s plan to incorporate cellular capabilities alongside with OpenWiFi. According to our research, the private cellular market is in its infancy and we see it as generally complementary to Wi-Fi. Many enterprise focused Wi-Fi vendors have not launched their own cellular capabilities, and we see that it is possible that some could adopt the cellular capabilities from TIP.
As for the question of “Will open-source Wi-Fi upset the enterprise Wi-Fi industry?” What we learned at the TIP OpenWiFi launch today, it appears there is significant support for the project by Service Providers and very limited support by the enterprise-focused WiFi vendors. We expect that SPs and MSPs initially will be the primary addressable market for the OpenWiFi community; over time, though, as TIP incorporates cellular capabilities to OpenWiFi, this could open up the market for more enterprise-focused opportunities. To elaborate, initially, OpenWiFi will appeal to users/operators with a relatively high degree of in-house capabilities like Service Providers. We’ve seen that many medium-sized and large-sized enterprises rely on their vendors to provide a significant amount of support to simplify operations. In addition to traditional service providers who will leverage OpenWiFi, we see initial support from Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Examples of MSPs include OpenWiFi supporter, Indio Networks (India), Boingo (USA), iBrowse (Europe); MSPs generally have teams capable of integrating various hardware and software systems that are then used to deliver a service to customers such as Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). Interestingly, TIP mentioned that in future releases, it would support cellular technology. Few enterprise Wi-Fi vendors have brought cellular capabilities to the market. It is possible that when TIP delivers cellular support, that enterprise OEMs may participate in the TIP/OpenWiFi community.
We attended the Qualcomm Wi-Fi 6 event held in San Francisco today. Representatives from partner companies who attended included HPE Aruba, Cisco, Commscope, Boingo, Netgear, Rivet Networks, AMD, and Microsoft. The principal announcement at the event was that Qualcomm announced its Networking Pro Series Platforms which are focused on Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, semiconductor systems which are in initial stages of availability and expected to be available on systems in coming months and quarters. The new Networking Pro Series chip systems hit four price points generally segmented by the number of antennas (more at the higher end) and are primarily targeted to the enterprise market, though we learned that some of the high-end consumer ("prosumer") vendors plan to use these chips as well. The new Networking Pro products have unique features compared to previous Wi-Fi 6 chips introduced from Qualcomm, including upstream MU-MIMO and upstream OFDMA and the design claim is that these can support 1,500 simultaneous users both upstream and downstream.
In the past, it could be said that Wi-Fi and cellular compete in some markets. We found it interesting that Qualcomm said that it expects that Wi-Fi 6 mesh products will be the way to get 5G millimeter-wave signals indoors. Several Qualcomm executives echoed the message that Wi-Fi and cellular are complementary, even though many Qualcomm service provider and cellular equipment partners do not subscribe to this point of view.
Qualcomm shared some impressive numbers. It ships approximately 1B Wi-Fi device chips per year at a run-rate; it has shipped over 4B Wi-Fi chips since 2015; and by comparison, had shipped 1/2B chips by 2010. It has shipped Wi-Fi chips with MU-MIMO capabilities to a total of 0.75B client devices. Qualcomm claims it has found that Target Wait Time (TWT) can improve cell phone battery life by as much as 60%.
HPE Aruba President, Keerti Melkote, presented and shared with the audience that it had won the Wi-Fi project to the nearby Chase Center, where the NBA's Warriors play and that it should operating soon. Additionally, Melkote emphasized that Aruba had recently begun shipping its price-competitive Instant ON product and the take-up has been strong. Cisco SVP Engineering, Anand Oswal, primarily discussed Cisco's Open Roaming initiative that focuses on seamless and secure public Wi-Fi onboarding. It was interesting that Cisco did not focus its comments on Wi-Fi 6. Morgan Kurk, CTO Commscope and acting President of Ruckus Networks spoke about the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 to venues, primary and secondary educational institutions, including AR & VR, 1:1 and online assessment use cases. Derek Peterson, CTO Boingo, a Wi-Fi/cellular venue services provider shared that it is now serving 1B consumers per year. Its goal is to get 100 MHz to each user, and that it will reach this goal by using all available spectrum, licensed and unlicensed. Peterson also shared its observations of the benefits from using Wi-Fi 6 at its trial that began in April of 2019 at the John Wayne Airport in Irvine, CA. Morgan Teachworth, Head of Hardware Platforms of Cisco Meraki, shared observations of several events it has been involved with, including the US Open Pebble Beach 2019 event, where, to its surprise, upload traffic exceeded downlink traffic. David Henry, SVP Connected Home Products from Netgear, hinted that it plans to introduce its Wi-Fi 6 mesh product, saying wait for details next week. We also learned that Netgear would leverage the highest end Qualcomm Network Pro chips intended for enterprise-class devices.
VK Jones, VP of Technology, Qualcomm Atheros, spoke about future products and standards work. He said by 2020, we should expect 6 GHz, and, by 2022, 802.11ax Release 2 features including scheduling and spatial re-use to improve old device capabilities. 6 GHz requires a third-party service provider to coordinate what frequencies each access point uses.