Open Standards and Open Source in Telecom

Posted on January 18th, 2017

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“Open standards” and “open source” are two terms that can often be confused. While regular readers of this blog are likely able to differentiate, for clarification’s sake, open source is the term used for software when the original source code is freely available and can also be redistributed and modified. But it doesn’t just reference access to the source code – distribution terms of open source software must comply with its own set of criteria.

When telecommunications was in its infancy, standards were needed and established before any technology was released. As the development of new networks and technology grows, it will mean prototypes in open source, collaborative projects, which are challenges that we’ve discussed in a previous blog post. The development of new internet-enabled mobile devices and internet service providers have brought telecommunications to the forefront, as well as trends towards cooperation between the Open Standards and Open Source communities, as previously highlighted in our blog about the need for collaboration in mobile security.

As Dave Ward, an OpenStand Advocate at CISCO, pointed out, “new Open Source Consortiums (OSS) are being started daily to expedite innovation, it’s important to acknowledge that the cycle time of an OSS and a Standards Development Organization (SDO) are fundamentally different.” But they can work to compliment each other.

Standards bodies must exist to continue internet innovation and functionality. As pointed out in a recent article from Pipeline, SDOs benefit the mobile value chain in different ways. For example, SDOs:

  • Help the industry prevent overlap and fragmentation of work by including players from across the mobile value chain, allowing insight into the entire system architecture.  Without this, pieces of solutions coming from multiple vendors are unlikely to work together.  
  • Evolve historical standards such as MMS or Device Management as networks shift to preserve interoperability and backward compatibility.  
  • Provide a legal and business framework that ensures fair practices in licensing, participation rights, publication processes and conflict resolution.

In order to build and maintain successful innovations like 5G networks and IoT devices, a collaborative network must exist between SDOs and OSS. SDOs can assist with architecture, quality and interoperability of Open Source projects, as well as enhance the overall vitality of the mobile value chain.

Belief in the necessity of standards organizations like OpenStand means a lot to those working daily to raise awareness about the need for open standards. You can advocate for open standards, as well, by joining our growing community of OpenStand Advocates.

 

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