Telecom IQ
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

5G: Where Standards and Open-Source Intersect



Industry standards have played a critical role in technology innovation, creating the framework for multivendor interoperability, which in turn enables massive economies of scale. But one common criticism of standards has been their relatively slow pace of development—especially when contrasted with the continuous innovation of open-source software initiatives. With the emergence of 5G, these two worlds are colliding in concrete ways for network operators, solution vendors, and standards-making bodies. Is there a tension right now between 5G standards and open-source initiatives? HPE brought together Tetsuya Nakamura, principal systems architect for CableLabs, and Manish Singh, vice president of product management for SDN and NFV, Tech Mahindra, to talk through the issue.


Standards vs. Open-Source: It’s not an Either/Or Proposition

Nakamura argued that, as innovative as open-source initiatives might be, if they’re going to be implemented in real-world service provider networks, standards will still be critical. “From operator’s point of view, open standards still need explicit descriptions and requirements, so standards become very, very important,” he said. “To accelerate 5G, some open-source approach is necessary, especially in the context of network virtualization. However, more concrete requirements are also needed.”

Singh noted that 5G encompasses three transformational pillars: new 5G radios, new architectures, and new models for hyper-automation. He argued that standards and open-source initiatives will play different roles in these areas to achieve different objectives. On the radio interface side, for example, Singh believes that standardization is the only way to enable the kind of device-side diversity necessary to support mass-scale use cases such as the Internet of Things (IoT). In terms of hyper-automation, however—bringing machine-learning, artificial intelligence, and other capabilities to networks to connect billions of IoT and other devices—open innovation will be essential. In the architecture and network virtualization space, we can expect to see a blend of the two.

“For architectures, there’s certainly a role for standards to play, and ETSI is doing that,” he said. “But there is also a role for open-source to create an environment that’s truly agile and gets telcos to start doing things differently, as web-scale companies have done. That’s an important shift, moving from pure-play standards to a hybrid model of standards plus open-source, to allow the industry to evolve faster than it has.”


Meeting 5G Requirements

Nakamura and Singh agreed that the industry will need to find the right balance between ensuring interoperability and scale, and accelerating innovation. Both, however, were quick to point out that 5G represents a different kind of technology evolution than previous wireless standards, and that the rules are changing.

Past transitions, such as 3G to 4G, were still dealing with the same basic set of services and use cases—voice, data, and eventually apps. “5G is really expanding the horizon with IoT and many other new applications on the horizon,” said Singh. “When you think about it from an interface or protocol-layers perspective, we can’t nail down all the 5G use cases day one. So the standards themselves need to become more agile and able to evolve depending on the market needs that service providers are addressing.”

With previous wireless standards, the industry looked to basically get everything 100% right the first time, and create a framework that everyone could live with for the next five to 10 years. Today, service providers want to be able to implement their architectures using microservices models, so that they can plug in one protocol today, and be able to quickly and easily shift to other interfaces and protocol extensions in the future. To do it, they will need more agile, ongoing network evolution in a 5G world, and Singh believes that standards will have to change to support that.


Learn More

For a more expansive discussion of the way standards and open-source initiatives will overlap to unlock 5G innovation, watch the full conversation at

Learn more about HPE Solutions at


0 Kudos
About the Author


June 18 - 20
Las Vegas, NV
HPE Discover 2019 Las Vegas
Learn about all things Discover 2019 in  Las Vegas, Nevada, June 18-20, 2019
Read more
Read for dates
HPE at 2019 Technology Events
Learn about the technology events where Hewlett Packard Enterprise will have a presence in 2019.
Read more
View all