5G unifies and blends traditional communications networks with the global IP world. With all the promise it has for unrivalled innovation, new products and services, and potential revenue, its success depends on security, performance, and flexibility. While the path to full 5G capabilities is clear enough, how individual operators – and their customers – arrive is not fully mapped out. Operators must decide the best course for their businesses and simultaneously evolve their systems to accommodate the new realties in a post-5G landscape. Due to the interdependence of multi-generation protocols for a smooth 5G transition, and the ongoing value of 3G and LTE, only a software-based solution can provide a true price-performance advantage, as hardware-based solutions are too costly and complex to adapt to changing conditions.