Where does OSS R&D come from?

A question came in from a reader this morning, “What is the role(inputs) of the service providers in the research (technology modernization) compared to the equipment vendors and standard bodies (3GPP, TMForum, IETF, etc.)? Do operators have any influence in the research and how the coordination happens (except being the members) between the vendors, operators, and standard bodies?

Brilliant question/s! I bet you have some thoughts on this!! It would be great if you could share your ideas in the comments section below.

A few notes on this question:

  1. In the old days, the telcos did a lot of R&D, including the invention of OSS/BSS and even the programming languages that were used to build these tools. Check out the book,  “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” by Jon Gertner (read more about it here – https://passionateaboutoss.com/an-uncommon-list-of-oss-books). This is probably the most inspiring book I’ve read in relation to the communications industry. The groundbreaking innovations that were developed within R&D powerhouses like Bell Labs during the 1900’s are staggering and something that we can barely even aspire to today. British Telecom and many other government-owned telcos, including Telstra’s R&D Labs here in Australia, also did amazing primary research. But they all offloaded that R&D responsibility to the vendors and to the standards bodies to a lesser extent many years ago. That’s a pity.
  2. A pity for the reasons mentioned in this old post that talks a little about the subject matter. https://passionateaboutoss.com/we-wanted-flying-cars
  3. Some of the telcos do contribute to product development, guiding the vendors with use-cases and requirements… not to mention providing the data and test cases for those use-cases to be validated against. Strategic product development partnerships exist between telcos and vendors
  4. Some of the telcos do create a lot of their own code and / or customisations to COTS products. Much of it is for their own internal use, but some of it is reaching the outside world… sometimes via the telcos’ own efforts and sometimes via their Solution Integrators who develop something at one telco and then cross-purpose it at other telcos
  5. Similar to #4, some code is getting out into the share / collaborative domain via projects like ONAP
  6. The more virtualised and modular nature of 5G has the potential for internally developed product modules (eg the NWDAF or RIC functions), but I suspect most telcos will continue to delegate this task to the vendors
  7. As you probably know, the standards bodies have real difficulty getting R&D to market quickly just because of the nature of having to take contributions from the cooperative. They perform a really important function nonetheless
  8. TM Forum’s Catalyst program is brilliant at getting vendors and carriers together to work on specific use-cases. It’s probably more integration effort around existing solutions than R&D in many cases, but it does perform an important role.
  9. There are a lot of open source software solutions (the other OSS) that contribute to the body of research and development being conducted in the OSS/BSS industry

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