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The role of open source software in telecommunications

The telecom industry is undergoing a major shift with the migration from voice and data services to an encompassing set of networking tools. Accompanying this shift is a need for greater agility and flexibility. Open source software is indispensable to a faster, more malleable communications network.

Proprietary vs. open source programs

The telecommunications space has conventionally used proprietary hardware and software to deploy solutions from various vendors. Using multiple vendors enabled telecom operators to open source some network functions, but not to the extent usually fastened to open source software.

Proprietary and open source programs are made of codes written by programmers. A proprietary program is a closed source, meaning it is owned by a developer, restricted to a licensing agreement and cannot be copied. An open source program, as the name suggests, is an open source, meaning it can be copied and modified under the developer’s license.

Proprietary options were once considered better in terms of usability and security. Recently, however, freely available software has become increasingly attractive as vendors gravitate to the cloud, network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN).

Benefits of open source software

There are several reasons why the telecom industry stands to benefit from open source. One advantage centers on technological growth. Developments in NFV and SDN compliment open source software, including open platform for NFV (OPNFV) and OpenDaylight. Vendors and telecom operators can use open source platforms to collaborate, differentiate themselves and provide additional services to the market.

Open source can also help the telecom industry save money. Proprietary solutions typically require the installation of expensive hardware. Open software, on the other hand, is usually free. Telecom operators can download the software without the expense of a purchase order. Not all open source software is created equal, however. Telecom operators ought to consider the complexity of the software and how it operates on other platforms when choosing an open source project.

Open source software also brings security to telecommunications. Since open source software is opaque, a community of contributors can check for errors. Bugs are more likely to be detected by thousands or millions of people reviewing the code, as opposed to proprietary programs, which are reviewed by a niche development staff. Open source communities quickly report and fix these glitches. Moreover, open source software can be tested and configured in as many ways as the number of contributors using it.

Another convenient feature of open source software the telecom industry needs is agility. Operators recognize they have to become more adaptive if they are to survive in a rapidly changing digital environment. Proprietary programs are resistant to change. With open source software, however, changes and updates can be made into the code base immediately.

The future of telecommunications

Although neither program can be regarded as superior to the other, open source software has the high ground in the telecom industry. Open source solutions are more affordable, innovative, secure and agile than traditional proprietary programs. To learn more, watch the video below.


Nathan Cranford
Nathan Cranford
Nathan Cranford joined RCR Wireless News as a Technology Writer in 2017. Prior to his current position, he served as a content producer for GateHouse Media, and as a freelance science and tech reporter. His work has been published by a myriad of news outlets, including COEUS Magazine, dailyRx News, The Oklahoma Daily, Texas Writers Journal and VETTA Magazine. Nathan earned a bachelor’s from the University of Oklahoma in 2013. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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