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Software defined networking has garnered large attention due to its potential to virtualize services in the Internet, introducing flexibility in the buffering, scheduling, processing, and routing of data in network routers. SDN breaks the deadlock that has kept Internet network protocols stagnant for decades, while applications and physical links have evolved. This article advocates for the use of SDN to bring about 5G network services by incorporating network coding (NC) functionalities. The latter constitutes a major leap forward compared to the state-of-the- art store and forward Internet paradigm. The inherent flexibility of both SDN and NC provides fertile ground to envision more efficient, robust, and secure networking designs, which may also incorporate content caching and storage, all of which are key challenges of the upcoming 5G networks. This article not only proposes the fundamentals of this intersection, but also supports it with key use cases and a thorough performance evaluation on an implementation that integrated the Kodo library (NC) into OpenFlow (SDN). Our results on singlehop, multihop, and multi-path scenarios show that gains of 3x to 11x are attainable over standard TCP and multi-path TCP.