TIP OpenWiFi

OpenWiFi is an community-developed open source platform to lower the cost of developing and operating Wi-Fi networks, and to accelerate the innovation of services. Traditionally, every service provider or OEM would build the Wi-Fi stack from scratch for specific hardware. OpenWiFi provides an open implementation of the stack along with certified hardware on which the stack can run. It provides open APIs that enable device management from the cloud.

Launched in 2021, OpenWiFi is an initiative of the Open Converged Wireless (OCW) software project group under the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). This follows from other TIP initiatives such as OpenRAN and Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT).

With 16 billion+ Wi-Fi devices in use, Wi-Fi is projected to grow further, particularly when 6 GHz band is being approved for unlicensed use. Wi-Fi complements 5G. Given this context, OpenWiFi has generated much interest in the industry.

Discussion

  • Given open source projects such as OpenWrt and DD-WRT, why do we need OpenWiFi?
    OpenWiFi capabilities. Source: Telecom Infra Project 2021a.
    OpenWiFi capabilities. Source: Telecom Infra Project 2021a.

    OpenWrt and DD-WRT are based on WRT54G router firmware open sourced by Linksys back in 2003. Since then, the open source community has maintained and evolved such firmware to support new devices and Wi-Fi features as the need arose. Thus, these codebases grew without a top-down approach. There's no certification program to ensure that the firmware runs on a particular router hardware. Moreover, there are plenty of variants and alternatives to OpenWrt, leading to fragmentation.

    Under TIP, OpenWiFi is a coordinated approach to openness within the Wi-Fi ecosystem. It uses OpenWrt. It brings all stakeholders including corporations, industry alliances and open source communities. A single codebase can be used on any compliant whitebox hardware. A standardized open API allows access points to be managed from the cloud. Application developers can use the API to build innovative services on the cloud and target any device running on the OpenWiFi stack.

    TIP OpenWiFi should not be confused with OpenWiFi Labs Private Limited, OpenWiFi (an R&D prototype) or openwifi (an SDR implementation).

  • What are the benefits of OpenWiFi?

    OpenWiFi's open codebase and compliance testing means that Wi-Fi solution providers don't have to build everything from scratch. OpenWiFi therefore enables them to lower R&D costs without compromising on latest features or developments in Wi-Fi. With lower barriers to entry, new service providers can come into the market.

    Rather than focusing their efforts on "Wi-Fi plumbing", enterprises can focus on service innovation. In other words, they can focus on innovative applications rather than the Wi-Fi stack itself.

    OpenWiFi also enables multi-vendor selection of cloud controllers and access points. There's no vendor lock-in. Service providers get choice and flexibility.

    Due to economies of scale, OpenWiFi is expected to bring down CAPEX and OPEX, leading to lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) compared to current proprietary solutions.

  • What is the OpenWiFi stack?
    The OpenWiFi stack. Source: Telecom Infra Project 2021a.
    The OpenWiFi stack. Source: Telecom Infra Project 2021a.

    The two main layers of the OpenWiFi stack are:

    • Access Point Firmware: Among its features are support for multiple topologies, multiple authentication standards, Passpoint®, and Zero Touch Provisioning. Wi-Fi standards supported include Wi-Fi 4/5/6 or IEEE 802.11n/ac/ax. Its Network Operating System (NOS) features include embedded captive portal, airtime fairness, local provisioning over SSID, SSID rate limiting, inter-AP communication, and many more.
    • Cloud Controller SDK: Among its features are Zero Touch Provisioning, firmware management, RESTful Northbound Interface (NBI), data model-driven API, template-based device provisioning with RADIUS profile management, and advanced RF control with RRM. It also enables remote troubleshooting and service assurance.
  • Who are the players involved in OpenWiFi?
    A selection of industry players involved in OpenWiFi. Source: Telecom Infra Project 2021e.
    A selection of industry players involved in OpenWiFi. Source: Telecom Infra Project 2021e.

    In May 2021, OpenWiFi included more than 100 participants including services providers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs), Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), system integrators, silicon vendors and industry organizations. These names include Qualcomm, MediaTek, TP-Link, Edgecore Networks, T-Mobile, Vodafone, NetExperience, Facebook, and many more.

    ODMs will offer whitebox access points that are OpenWiFi compatible and address various use cases. OEMs will bring together whitebox hardware and OpenWiFi stack to offer commercial solutions. OEMs are expected to offer innovative services that can be accessed via the OpenWiFi cloud controller. Finally, enterprises and service providers will take what OEMs provide to deploy Wi-Fi networks for specific use cases.

    TIP's Open Converged Wireless software project group that manages OpenWiFi has noted that it will collaborate and reuse software components from other groups including Wi-Fi Alliance, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), and OpenWRT. An example of this is WBA's OpenRoaming standard that OpenWiFi has adopted.

  • How do I get started with OpenWiFi?

    The easiest way to start is to purchase a certified TIP OpenWiFi AP and partner with cloud providers who can simplify the deployment. To create custom builds, the OpenWiFi source code is available under TIP's GitHub account. However, use of the code requires OCW membership.

    OpenWiFi's official documentation mentions high-level features of the Access Point (AP) and Cloud Software Development Kit (SDK). As on June 2021, the documentation was pretty basic and incomplete, possibly because the project was still very new.

    To contribute to the project, an individual or company needs to become a TIP member.

Milestones

Feb
2021

TIP Board of Directors approve Open Converged Wireless (OCW) as a software project group under Telecom Infra Project (TIP). It's described as "a dedicated open source community for the design, development & testing of converged wireless connectivity systems software for Wi-Fi, switching, and other wireless technologies."

May
2021

TIP announces the launch of OpenWiFi Release 1.0. This disaggregated Wi-Fi system is community-developed and open source. At the same time, TIP kicks off lab and field trials of Wi-Fi connectivity solutions based on TIP OpenWiFi. The launch event sees many sponsors and dozens of participants including service providers, software OEMs and hardware ODMs. It's reported that 10+ service providers are trialing OpenWiFi, 5+ ODMs have shipped OpenWiFi-compatible whitebox access points, and 8+ Wi-Fi OEMs are using OpenWiFi to build commercial solutions.

Jun
2021
The NetExperience OpenWiFi stack, including the application layer and its services. Source: NetExperience 2021, 0:41.
The NetExperience OpenWiFi stack, including the application layer and its services. Source: NetExperience 2021, 0:41.

NetExperience announces general availability of its platform that can manage TIP OpenWiFi-compatible access points. The platform is available as licensed software or SaaS. The platform has been tested against access points from TP-Link, EdgeCore and CIG. NetExperience claims to be the "first full Wi-Fi management platform for OpenWiFi" to come to market.

References

  1. McCaskill, Steve. 2021. "OpenWiFi project adopts OpenRoaming standard for vision of 'global Wi-Fi network'." TechRadar, May 10. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  2. NetExperience. 2021. "NetExperience Platform." NetExperience, on YouTube, April 28. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  3. PRWeb. 2021. "NetExperience Announces General Availability of New OpenWiFi Software Platform." Press Release, NetExperience, on PRWeb, June 15. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  4. Sandler, Eric. 2005. "The Open Source WRT54G Story." Wi-Fi Planet, November 8. Updated 2020-06-18. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  5. Telecom Infra Project. 2021a. "OpenWiFi: An industry movement for accelerating Wi-Fi infrastructure innovation." Telecom Infra Project, May 5. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  6. Telecom Infra Project. 2021b. "Open Converged Wireless." Telecom Infra Project, April 29. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  7. Telecom Infra Project. 2021c. "Open Wi-Fi." Documentation, OpenWiFi, Telecom Infra Project. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  8. Telecom Infra Project. 2021d. "TIP Project Group Charter: Open Converged Wireless." Telecom Infra Project, February 17. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  9. Telecom Infra Project. 2021e. "Unveiling TIP OpenWiFi." Telecom Infra Project, May 12. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  10. Telecom Infra Project. 2021f. "Creating Your Own Cloud Solution." Documentation, OpenWiFi, Telecom Infra Project. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  11. Wikipedia. 2021. "OpenWrt." Wikipedia, May 17. Accessed 2021-06-15.

Further Reading

  1. Telecom Infra Project. 2021a. "OpenWiFi: An industry movement for accelerating Wi-Fi infrastructure innovation." Telecom Infra Project, May 5. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  2. Qualcomm. 2021. "OpenWifi and an introduction to the Telecom Infra Project." OnQ Blog, Qualcomm, May 13. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  3. O'Shea, Dan. 2021. "Telecom Infra Project unveils OpenWiFi Release 1.0." Fierce Wireless, May 13. Accessed 2021-06-15.
  4. NetExperience. 2021. "NetExperience Platform." NetExperience, on YouTube, April 28. Accessed 2021-06-15.

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Cite As

Devopedia. 2021. "TIP OpenWiFi." Version 2, June 16. Accessed 2021-06-16. https://devopedia.org/tip-openwifi
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Last updated on
2021-06-16 09:48:11