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Open Standards and Open Source

By: Elizabeth Rose

The traditional means of innovating the mobile network has been through the thoughtful and consensus-based efforts of technologists working in a standards setting environment.  However, the maturation of the Internet as an application platform and the related rise of Internet-enabled device and service providers, especially on the Web, have helped renew a focus on innovation and differentiation.  The development of 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) will employ a process likely to be dominated by agile development of technology and platform prototypes often in Open Source, collaborative projects, which put a premium on "code first".  In light of this industry shift, the Open Mobile Alliance has embarked on a survey of mobile and IoT industry professionals to shed light on trends towards cooperation between the Open Standards and Open Source communities.

Open Standards and Open Source 

Much has changed in the telecommunications industry in the years since Standards Development Organization (SDOs) such as 3GPP, ITU and OMA were formed. In the early days of telecom and the Internet, as fundamental technology was being invented, it was imperative for the growth of the new markets that standards were established prior to large-scale deployment of technology and related services. The process for development of these standards followed a traditional "waterfall" approach, which helped to harmonize (sometimes competing) pre-standard technical solutions to market needs.



However, the maturation of the Internet as an application platform and the related rise of Internet-enabled device and service providers, especially on the Web, have helped renew a focus on innovation and differentiation. The result is a more complex market that is evolving ever faster, as we approach the future in which all communications will be Internet-based. The future of telecom will employ a process likely to be dominated by agile development of technology and platform prototypes often in Open Source, collaborative projects, which put a premium on "code first."

Standardization provides benefits to the mobile value chain in several ways. First, SDOs and the multitude of cooperation agreements among them help the industry to prevent overlap of work and, therefore, fragmentation within the industry.  Second, SDOs include 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.  Third, historical standards such as MMS or Device Management must continue to evolve as networks evolve to preserve interoperability and backward compatibility.  Finally, SDOs provide a legal and business framework that ensures fair practices in licensing, participation rights, publication processes and conflict resolution.


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