Sprint, SK Telecom, Swisscom board LFN open source bandwagon, T-Mobile still MIA

Sprint, Swisscom and SK Telecom are among the new members to join the LF Networking Fund. (Pixabay)

The LF Networking Fund (LFN), which facilitates open source projects, announced Wednesday that Sprint has joined as a "silver" member.

Other new members that have signed on to LFN's roster of service providers include KT, KDDI, SK Telecom, Swisscom and Telecom Italia. With the newest members, LFN now has more than 100 service provider and technology company members from around the globe.

While Sprint is a key addition for LFN, T-Mobile is missing in action among the major U.S. mobile carriers. If the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile goes through, it would make sense for T-Mobile to tap into Sprint's open source efforts.

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Earlier this year, the Linux Foundation put some of its open source projects, which included the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV), OpenDaylight (ODL), and Fast data – Input/Output, under one umbrella with the newly created LFN brand.

Service providers are using ONAP, OPNFV and ODL as critical components for enabling SDN/NFV, 5G, big data, artificial intelligence and IoT in their network services. LFN's carrier members are also leveraging various components of the open source projects for virtual network function onboarding, orchestration, service delivery, and network reconstruction.

While the Linux Foundation didn't specifically say whether the new service provider members were primarily interested in ONAP, it was mentioned in supporting quotes from KDDI's Yoshiaki Uchida, senior managing executive officer, director, and Swisscom's Rico Schwendener, head of innovation.

After AT&T put its internally developed ECOMP into open source early last year, the Linux Foundation combined it with OPEN-O to create ONAP. The goal of ONAP was to create an open source framework for network automation including orchestration across the MANO (management and orchestration) sector. Other ONAP elements include lifecycle management, a design framework, analytics engines and, more importantly, closed-loop automation.

In addition to AT&T, ONAP's service provider membership includes Colt, Comcast, BCE, Orange Group, China Mobile, China Telecom, Vodafone, PCCW Global, Reliance Jio and, more recently, Verizon.

From the vendor side, Amdocs has been a big proponent and developer of ONAP. Amdocs announced in March that it had put its flavor of ONAP on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Additional vendor members include Accenture, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Coriant, Juniper Networks, Mirantis, Nokia and Samsung.

Ever since its inception, ONAP has updated the percentage of global mobile subscribers that it covers through its membership. Last week ONAP said service providers and vendor members represent more than 60% of the world's mobile subscribers. The Linux Foundation's Arpit Joshipura, general manager of networking and orchestration, said today that LFN now covers more than 65% of global mobile subscribers.

While ONAP's stated goal is to become the de facto automation platform for the telecom industry, it has had its share of critics, including industry analyst Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. Nolle has said that ONAP isn't where it needs to be just yet, but that it could still get there with subsequent software releases and other updates.

RELATED: ETSI's OSM hits version 4.0 while ONAP's second release looms large

After issuing its first software release, called Amsterdam, in November of last year, ONAP will be releasing Beijing soon. Among other features, Beijing will include scale, stability, security and performance boosters as well as more use cases for 5G features and intercloud connectivity.

From a standards perspective, ETSI's European Telecommunications Standards Group Open Source MANO is working in roughly the same sector as ONAP, but both OSM and ONAP have claimed to have their own areas within that MANO sector. OSM released the fourth version of its software last week.