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10 April 2024

Open Source or commercial Cloud PBX solutions? Sorting the wheat from the chaff

Are you using Open-Source solutions for Cloud PBX and hosted business services?  We speak to many service providers that have chosen this path – but now wish to move to commercially supported solutions. What’s driving this change? There are many good reasons....

The open source vs. proprietary software debate - which is "better”? - isn’t a new one but it is a question we at Gintel have been increasingly asked in recent months. In that time, we’ve encountered a growing number of service providers that wish to move towards replacing their open-source solutions with our commercially supported and proven software. It’s given us pause to stop and think.  

Why are they thinking about making the move, and why now? Probably because on a high level, they’ve concluded that proprietary solutions may better meet their requirements in terms of features, support, and integration with existing systems. That’s the standard thinking. But it’s worth digging a little deeper, particularly in the context of telecoms software, and isolating the exact reasons why this may be the best choice. If you’re facing a similar decision, the points that follow will likely be helpful in guiding you towards reaching the right outcome for you own situation.

Maintenance and support

Unlike open source, proprietary software solutions will be backed by the vendor’s active support team. They will maintain the software, manage releases, and ensure operational performance. These are important advantages compared to the open source alternative. The latter will consume your own resources, diverting them from tasks that really matter, in order to do things in which they may not even be expert.

Roadmap and evolution

With proprietary software, roadmap and evolution are the responsibility of by your commercial partner. With open-source solutions, for which enhancements may emerge from community developers – there’s no guarantee of the quality control you expect for software that needs to run in Tier 1 or Tier 2 networks.

This is a critical issue for service providers, particularly as they grow, because network operators have stringent processes, often involving new continuous delivery processes, or staging and production network environments to ensure quality control for releases and updates.

Scale

For telcos, scale is a bedrock issue. The question of whether an open-source solution can really scale beyond a few thousand users is critical. Open source may appear to help you to launch an MVP, but will it really scale to match your ambitions?

On the other hand, a commercial solution, for instance one like Gintel’s Cloud PBX, will be proven in deployments. In our case, with deployments that support more than a million users in a single network. Think of the demands that places on a solution because ensuring consistent service reliability at that scale is a completely different ball game. And open-source solutions are not inherently designed to play that game.

Stability

Particularly in the telco market, you can be sure that only solutions with careful quality control procedures behind them can deliver the operational performance you, as a service provider, will require. 5*9 uptime, carrier grade reliability and stability, and more are central to your business. Open-source solutions, again using the example of PBXs, aren’t generally built for environments like this.

3GPP and compliance

Compliance with different generations of network technology and 3GPP evolution is a moving target. But it’s one that commercial vendors meet - aligning with the standards you need to support in your network and ensure integration with other solutions with which they must interface.

Particularly as we move to 5G SA, is this something you can risk taking for granted? Even if you don’t run the network itself (as an MVNO, for example) you still need to be compatible with the standards required by your host MNO, so this issue can’t be discounted. Proprietary software will be designed for compliance; open-source solutions might not be.

IMS integration

For operators, integration of software with their IMS is essential. Most open-source solutions are not optimised for IMS interworking or deployment. A true commercial solution, like Gintel’s, will natively support the IMS ISC interface acting as an IMS application, as well as necessary Diameter interfaces. And it will have been proven with multiple IMS vendors. This is vital if you must or are planning to transition to a new IMS platform and the issue doesn’t stop there. Will an open-source solution support legacy signalling in the IMS context, such as CAMEL, via the Reverse IM-SSF function which enables service delivery to legacy users that are not connected directly to the IMS? Probably not, but Gintel’s solutions do.

Regulatory issues

Can open-source solutions handle mandatory services required by regulation, for example lawful interception? Commercial solutions like Gintel’s are built with the regulatory needs of the operator in mind – and to anticipate new demands which, often, must be addressed quickly. Open-source software shifts this responsibility to the user, who may not be able to address it.

Reference customers

Open-source solutions often evolve in their own branches, and you may be the only user of yours. Commercial solutions are proven across multiple deployments, further hardening the software and its reliability. There’s a considerable degree of “insurance” in this; where open source is, if nothing else, much more of a leap into the unknown.

OSS and BSS considerations

These play into several areas in the context of open source vs. proprietary. For instance, in the context of monitoring – do you have the tools to manage all processes and integrate your solution with your OSS domain? In the context of billing – can your choice support online and offline charging models so you can deliver with your preferred model?

Mobile native

Can an open-source solution provide truly mobile native user experiences, so that the voice channel is that of the mobile phone (UE), rather than depending on an application? Is this baked in?

Using Gintel’s solutions mean you use the native dialler and the normal voice channel, not a separate app. Mobile native voice means service that works on any gen of mobile networks – from 2G to 5G and has no minimum bandwidth requirements. This is critical because it means you can seamlessly offer services across any connected network.

Roaming considerations

Roaming scenarios can be complex and special treatment may be necessary. Gintel’s solutions can support complex, highly specific roaming scenarios, with the necessary integration to your CAMEL services, if required. Open-source solutions will be unlikely to be so adaptable (and probably won’t support the necessary interfaces). Do you want to work around such issues yourself?

VoLTE

If VoLTE is integral to your network offer, then you must address the question of whether open-source solutions can support the complex integration this requires. The answer is likely to be “no”, which again isn’t the case with Gintel’s solutions

To summarise, what often be the advantages of open-source solutions tend on closer examination to fade rapidly. All the issues above will need to be considered and addressed, by you (or your team) if you go down that route. Likely, that’s the reason why we’re hearing from so many service providers who are concluding that switching to proprietary software is the right answer for them.

Talk to Gintel

Gintel helps operators succeed in highly competitive markets, achieving differentiation for their business service portfolio. Our telecommunications heritage, know-how and experience are backed by a track record of delivering successful solutions to Tier 1 operators, MVNOs, ISPs and Systems Integrators.

We enable our customers to stay at the forefront of service innovation in a rapidly moving market, offering agility and flexibility and delivering profit for their business.

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