How to motivate open-source software for CSPs
by Kajsa Arvidsson
Open-source solutions within the telecommunications industry have gained more traction in recent years. In conversation with Johan Fredriksson, a Senior Business Leader with over 20 years of experience in software solutions, we discussed how open-source software has evolved and why communications service providers (CSPs) should be more motivated than ever to implement them.
From the network to the last mile
A few years ago, the adoption of open-source solutions was limited, but interest from CSPs has incrementally increased. Open-source solutions can be applied to the network, IT systems, and base stations down to the “last mile” of broadband services and products in consumer homes. To some extent, the disaggregation of the telecom infrastructure impacted the acceptance of open-source solutions. By separating the different network layers, there was an opportunity to implement it in a controlled environment. As the telecom industry gained experience, more open and standardized systems were developed. Regardless of where open-source solutions are deployed, there are some common benefits.
The main advantage is a large developer community where features and code are constantly reviewed. This means CSPs can access the latest features, add their code and package it for their products and services without maintaining the full source code themselves.
“CSPs can then choose a solution depending on the system, infrastructure, resources, and how much effort is it to build their own operating system or buy a commercial open-source operating system. This is a vital question CSPs must ask themselves,” says Johan Fredriksson.
Maintaining life cycle management
If we take a closer look at the “last mile” of broadband, this refers to direct broadband products and services CSPs offer for consumer homes. For instance, by separating the residential gateway hardware from the software, CSPs can manage the software platform independently from the hardware.
“To develop the software operating system themselves is a large undertaking for a CSP. You need to have one version of the software you run in production, one version for the end of life, and one version that you will gradually move into production, so you will have 3-4 sets of teams working to maintain only this layer. This component becomes much bigger than expected and doesn’t have an immediate market value or benefit of owning it. This is where the open-source operating system can make a difference for CSPs’ bottom line,” explains Johan.
“And it’s not the open code in itself that will make a difference. It’s the movement, culture, people, way of working, and the democratization of how you develop. It’s what it can enable, such as a faster time to market, responding to consumer needs, and attracting developers. This can make a difference when recruiting and keeping developers within a telecom company.”
More competitive and added value
“Depending on where you are as a CSP, you are better positioned to compete if you have a much more open system. You can’t be competitive in a fast-moving landscape if you buy software from a vendor where it’s not open-source, and you can’t impact the code,” describes Johan. “The value of open-source software is what CSPs add on top of the system, such as adding third-party applications to meet consumers’ needs for their digital homes.”
Fostering the ecosystem
Ultimately, what will motivate CSPs to adopt open-source software depends on their maturity level and where they are in their business journey. For example, large CSPs might have their own labs to invest time and resources to develop their solution, while others might turn to system integrators or hardware or software vendors to help them.
To advance the implementation of open-source software, the ecosystem has to be developed. CSPs rely on vendors, system integrators, and partners, where CSPs can play a significant role. Johan says, “The ecosystem around the solution is essential. To be interesting, hardware and software vendors must be certified for the solution. In addition, the ecosystem needs breadth and depth. If you don’t have an ecosystem around it, then CSPs will have to build it themselves. This doesn’t bring value to your business and requires resources that could work on new services instead.”
CSPs have the power to shape this ecosystem. Regarding vendors as partners and communicating which platforms they need to be certified helps facilitate future requests for cost estimates. This speeds up solution implementation and management while developing the entire ecosystem.