Open Standards and Open Source

In 2014, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) began a series of initiatives to begin to bridge the gap between the needs of SDOs and the needs of the developer community.
Clearly, SDOs play a fundamental role in defining our complex system of reliable, interoperable mobile voice and data networks and services across the planet. As these wireless networks are evolving toward an all IP infrastructure, application developers have emerged as a new community of consumers for these standards.  In the highly-competitive world of application developers, where Open Source Software (OSS) is relied upon to produce the more than 1.6 million apps available for Android alone, the procedures and output associated with a traditional standard can be seen as archaic and slow to market.

The working styles of the standards communities and the developer communities are vastly different. The standards community is typically working to define a solution to a relatively complex problem in a way that creates a permanent solution that helps to ensure integrity and interoperability in the network or service layer. When the work is complete, SDOs typically produce a document, often in PDF, that is published for the industry at large to absorb and adhere to when developing their products or services. SDOs often operate using Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) or Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) licensing terms to protect the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) contributed to the specifications.

Application developers are concerned with creating applications that take advantage of these standards. They work with socially connected tools that allow for co-opting, adapting, and republishing their work and the work of others, under one of many Open Source licenses that generally allow for reuse, adaptation and productization of work on a royalty free basis without the need to negotiate terms with each contributor or contributing company.  Developers operating in an Open Source community can find themselves at odds between the Open Source licenses adopted by their community or project and the FRAND or RAND-based licenses required to use specifications produced by the SDOs.

The Survey 

In 2014, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) began a series of initiatives to begin to bridge the gap between the needs of SDOs and the needs of the developer community. Over the last 18 months, it became clear to OMA that improved interaction with Open Source initiatives was on the list of important developer needs, but just how important this would be to the mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) industries moving forward was not completely clear. Therefore, in March of 2016, OMA launched an industry survey to find better data about how traditional telco-oriented companies are approaching Open Source and conversely how the Open Source community views the need for interaction between SDOs and Open Source organizations.The survey was distributed broadly across OMA’s marketing database and social media: 419 individuals responded to the survey representing over 300 different companies, universities, governmental organizations, standards bodies and Open Source communities;  22 percent of respondents were from OMA member companies.  When asked to indicate their company’s primary business, 29 percent indicated software developer, 12 percent indicated mobile operator, 10 percent indicated mobile device vendor, 9 percent indicated network equipment vendor and 40 percent indicated “other”.  Of the “other” category, the most often cited primary businesses were government agency, university and semiconductor/chipset supplier.

It was important to begin the survey by getting agreement on the definition of Open Standards and Open Source Projects. Ninety nine percent of respondents agreed with the following definition for Open Standards: “Open Standards are best defined as documents made available to the general public, which are developed (or approved) and maintained via a managed, collaborative, transparent, and consensus-driven process. Open Standards facilitate interoperability and data exchange among different products or services and are intended for widespread adoption.” Ninety eight percent of respondents agreed with the following definition of Open Source Projects: “Open Source projects are best defined as programs in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design that is made available under an Open Source license. Open Source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and often share the changes among the programming community for such projects. At a high level, Open Source licenses allow users the freedom to use, modify, and distribute the source code without requiring any further permissions.”


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