Open Source in Telecommunications as an Industry Disruptor

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Richard Smith, newly appointed Sales Director for UK and Ireland, at Sangoma Technologies shares his views on why he believes Open Source in Telecoms is going to be an industry disruptor.

History Speaks for Itself

Occasionally, something comes around to disrupt the norm, often seemingly out of nowhere and usually because someone has dared to offer something for nothing. If we go back to the early 1990’s when the high street was the only place to go to buy things and the library was the place to find information, Tim Burners-Lee was busy writing his way into the history books.

Suddenly a new way to communicate using a free open source language was created and the World Wide Web was born and we can see how that has impacted retail trading and information exchange. Suddenly finding people to write and develop websites using this free technology became quite expensive. While developers had no problem writing the necessary code to make their pages look great, it was beyond the average user. This opened a market to engage with a professional that could deliver you a website that would look and perform the exact way you wanted it to.

Then in, 2003 a small Open Source project called WordPress began to develop what is now the leading Website Development platform used by millions of Websites and put tools back the hands of everyone. Bringing website creation back into the hands of the everyday users and effecting the existing industry.

It doesn’t end there, 2008 saw the release of Android into the mobile market which now, according to most sources, commands over half of the of the mobile device market place. You may also argue that developments like Linux that powers a vast majority of the web (LAMP etc.) also made a huge impact on the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Apple.

What’s Next

Now I may be a little biased because of where I work but the reason I work where I do is because I am utterly convinced that the world of Telecoms is about – or maybe already has been! – to be shaken by the influence of Open Source. It may have taken a while but Open Source platforms like Asterisk are set to dominate the modern communications arena. Once seen as a tool for the enthusiast at best or a buggy developer’s playground at worst. In 2017 we are seeing a huge shift in attention from a market once dominated by players such as Avaya, Mitel, Cisco, Samsung and Panasonic to Open Source based communications systems that offer cost savings, improved functionality and ease of use. As a company that basis its core products on Open Source we are seeing big wins against the others in areas of Government, Education and Hospitality.

A Utopian World

Does this mean we advocate some Utopian paradise where everything is free and nobody can learn from technology? No! What this means is that monopolies that have taken advantage for years suddenly face a reality that they have to adapt or die. The way is paved for more creative and entrepreneurial companies to leverage these technologies and begin to put service and customer satisfaction back at the heart of each opportunity. This is why the FreePBX community, development and sponsorship by Sangoma have been so successful where others have drifted away. We built from an Open Source project and developed a commercial model around it that allows us to keep paying excellent developers to produce a product that is also open to those who still want to tinker under the hood.

Dispell The Myths

But surely if it’s Open Source it’s vulnerable to hacking and fraud? No more than any other Internet facing device and because much of the underlying platform is community supported, a lot more work goes into protecting the vulnerabilities. What about quality of the product, surely it can’t be as good as proprietary systems? If you look at most vendors offering a Unified Communications system built on Open Source you will see a very full feature list that many cannot compare with and certainly not on price. Then the classic and frequent comment is that it must be too complicated because it is built by geeks. In reality all of the Open Source driven projects are there to overcome a problem and one of the common problems is to overcome the complexities and therefor costs of hiring high skilled professionals to maintain and fix their systems.

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

We have already seen with some of the bigger companies that they are struggling to compete in this market and with more people seeing the benefits of Open Source in Telecoms the opportunity and disruption is only going to increase. Over recent months I have experienced taking resellers that have been in the traditional space for several years winning and retaining better deals because of the advantages of this Open Source heritage. Opportunity is always there if you have the foresight to see it and take advantage of the situation when it presents itself.