Yet several developments catch the eye. One is a largely private venture, associating Cisco, Rakuten (Japan’s platform and mobile company) and Red Hat (world leader in open source software). It has begun testing a software-based 5G solution, expanding the virtual network systems that manage these new networks and their edge architecture, routing data through a private cloud. The solution cuts through a lot of the hardware needed for 5G, relies on open source, and therefore, verifiable software that many say is the key to enhancing security for the data networks. Multi-layer networks or "slicing" are in any case needed for the data with very different requirements that will travel through the 5G networks of the future. The Cisco & Rakuten solution deals with this issue at the root, instead of grafting new software to hardware networks that were not designed for this. Rakuten is already installing base stations in association with NEC, at prices said to be considerably lower than other 5G suppliers.
Another development is a public initiative with private partners, and it originates, like much of America’s innovation and industrial policies, with the Department of Defense. DARPA has long entertained non-conventional contract and funding practices designed to achieve leapfrog innovation or so-called "moonshots". The possibility now extends to a number of agencies within the Departments of Defense (DoD), Energy (DOE), Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), and Transportation (DOT), as well as NASA. OTAs (for Other Transaction Authority) are consortia (company of companies) sought by a government agency among private firms – in DoD’s case, both usual suppliers and "non-traditional" entities that do not customarily deal with the DoD. They submit studies leading to contracts for a "prototype." The consortium’s role stops where infrastructure construction and maintenance begin. Although the first phases are not subject to tender rules, the studies are anonymous and judged by a qualified jury. The goal is to cut red tape and accelerate innovation – doing away with many public procurement rules including the Buy American Act. One source from the consortium explains: "this is to cut through our traditional acquisition system, seeing that China is unencumbered by rules." The process has indeed mushroomed – by the end of 2017, there were already 27 OTAs, directly under the DoD’s supervision, with many more associated with one or another Defense arm.
One such OTA specifically deals with the issue of frequency bandwidth or spectrum sharing and efficient use, with 5G in mind. According to participants, the DoD has started from the security issue of 5G networks dominated by Chinese suppliers. But the concerns extend further: the availability and interoperability of 5G networks for military deployments abroad and with allies, for example. Dual use is also a key concern of the DoD. A National Spectrum Consortium (NSC) has been formed with 227 private participants – including large Defense contractors, "Mom and Pop" research outfits or companies, university labs – together with DoD agencies, including major intelligence agencies. A 1.25-billion-dollar fund has been allocated in 2015 – from the 44 billion proceeds of the mammoth 2014 1775-1780 Mhz bandwidth sale. There is a view to include other government departments, and a question as to foreign participants: so far, only American subsidiaries (and for instance, Ericsson and Nokia) have been allowed to join, but others can be suppliers (as is Thales in at least one contract with the NSC).