The open-source Magma project will become 5G's Linux

Facebook's Magma brings open-source mobile cores to carrier-grade LTE and 5G. Moving ahead, Magma will run with the Linux Foundation using a vendor-neutral governance framework.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

5G is one part hardware, one part standards -- oh so many 5G standards, and one part software. Indeed, it wasn't for 5G's open-source technologies, 5G wouldn't have gotten off the ground. Now, the software and hardware sides of 5G are getting closer together than ever with the cellular core, network software open-source stack Magma.

Magma was developed by Facebook to help telecom operators deploy mobile networks quickly and easily. The project, which Facebook open-sourced in 2019, does this by providing a software-centric distributed mobile packet core and tools for automating network management. This containerized network function integrates with the existing back end of a mobile network and makes it easy to launch new services at the network edge.

Magma operators can build and augment modern and efficient mobile networks at scale. It integrates with existing LTE and newly minted 5G networks. Several Magma community members are also collaborating in the Telecom Infra Project (TIP)'s Open Core Network project group. The plan is to define, build, test, and deploy core network products that integrate Magma with TIP Open Core disaggregated hardware and software solutions.

The Linux Foundation will help oversee this new stage in Magma's organizational future. Magma will be managed under a neutral governance framework at the Linux Foundation. Arm, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, FreedomFi, Qualcomm, the Institute of Wireless Internet of Things at Northeastern University, the OpenAirInterface(OAI)  Software Alliance, and the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OIF)

You may ask, since Magma is already working with OIF, which is something of a Linux Foundation rival, why Magma will be working with both? Arpit Joshipura, the Linux Foundation's general manager of Networking, Edge, and IoT, explained, "Magma has gotten great community support from several ecosystem players and foundations including OIF, OAI etc. What we are announcing today is the next evolution of the project where the actual hosting of the project is being set up under the Linux Foundation with neutral governance that has been accepted by the community for a long time. OIF, OAI, and LF will work with their communities of Software Developers to contribute to Magma's core project."

Even if you're already involved in 5G development and deployment you may not know much about Magma. You will. Joshipura said, "Magama provides application functions like Mobile Core that are complementary to existing telecom and edge open-source software like Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) or Akraino." 

Magma will provide these features : 

  • Allow operators to expand capacity and reach by using LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi, and Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

  • Allowing operators to offer cellular service without vendor lock-in with a modern, open-source core network.

  • Enabling operators to manage their networks more efficiently with more automation, less downtime, better predictability, and more agility to add new services and applications.

  • Enabling federation between existing mobile network operators (MNO)s and new infrastructure providers to augment mobile network infrastructure more efficiently.

  • Supporting open source 5G technology and incubating future wireless network use cases like Private 5GIntegrated Access Backhaul (IAB), Augmented Networks, and Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN).

Boris Renski, co-founder and CEO of FreedomFi, which uses Magma to enable anyone to build low cost, private, long-range, reliable, and secure 4G LTE and 5G networks, loves this plan. "We've been contributing to Magma upstream and doing customer deployments for over a year now and have built 20+ Private LTE networks using Magma."

Renski sees "Magma turning into what we believe is quickly becoming the Linux of the telecom network cores." Further, "With industry giants like Arm and Qualcomm joining the effort and helping ensure compatibility of Magma with their platforms, we expect that other radio access network (RAN) and OSS vendors will rally around the effort to help further accelerate adoption."

Qualcomm believes this is happening too. Douglas Knisely, Qualcomm engineer, principal said, "Qualcomm strongly supports the evolution of the Magma core network efforts into a broader coalition among the key founding and contributing projects. This effort builds on the collaboration activities and code contributions from OAI into the Magma project and promotes the harmonization of a common 5G Core Network reference architecture, internal structure, APIs, and interfaces for all of the emerging 5G open source projects in the industry."

It's not just vendors that see Magma's potential. "Magma is one of the most exciting projects I've seen in years. In our world, connectivity is directly linked to progress, and Magma's mission to improve network access for the under-connected is inspiring and meaningful," said Jonathan Bryce, the OIF's Executive Director.

Want to get involved? You can join Magma at its Github. 5G's future is waiting for you.

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