MWC2023: Mobile operators open up to API developers and challenge big tech on infrastructure costs
The traditionally guarded world of telecoms is opening up following news that mobile operator association GSMA is launching a framework for APIs, Open Gateway, designed to provide universal access to operator networks.
Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) can enhance an enterprise’s internal workflows, customer experiences and customer engagement. Developers can use them to integrate calls, texts and other telephony functions directly into applications or software, for instance.
The GSMA’s new API initiative, announced on the first day of global telecoms event Mobile World Congress, is launching with support from 21 carriers, with the aim of changing the way the telecoms industry designs and delivers services in a software-based API-based economy.
The move will allow developers to access and use a variety of mobile network services like location or identity verification and carrier billing, in a simpler, more cost effective way.
The association said that eight universal network APIs would be available at launch including SIM Swap (eSims to change carriers more easily); Quality on Demand (QoD); Device Status (Connected or Roaming Status); Number Verify Edge Site Selection and Routing, Number Verification (SMS 2FA) and Carrier Billing – Check Out and Device Location (where a service needs a location verified).
Further APIs will launch throughout the year, the association added.
The APIs are defined, developed and published in CAMARA, the open-source project for developers driven by the Linux Foundation in collaboration with the GSMA.
Welcoming the announcement during the opening keynote at MWC’s Fira venue in an uncharacteristically wet and chilly Barcelona, GSMA chair and Telefonica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete said that the telco network remained “the last infrastructure not available as code” – a paradigm that it now hoped to change.
“The GSMA is moving from being the largest voice and data platform to the largest API based data platform worldwide.
The chief exec added: “We are working towards an open digital ecosystem whereby developers can call upon the aspects of the network that help them maximise the very best customer experience.”
Kalyan Kumar, CTO of Indian IT services supplier HCL Tech told TechInformed following the keynote that his firm would definitely be putting some of its products into this initiative.
“We’re already making products which are available and compliant to an open API architecture. For instance we have a marketing automation platform for telco users which means if they want to offer campaign-as-service to an enterprise client then our product is all ready to be exposed as an API, so they can start offering targeted campaigns,“ he said.
Big tech on board
Big Tech partners to come on board include Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
Beaming in via pre-recorded message was Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft: “We look forward to bringing the GSMA Open Gateway initiative to Microsoft Azure, to empower developers and help operators monetise the value of their 5G investments,” he said.
AWS chief technologist for the telco Industry Ishwar Parulkar added that the Open Gateway would be a “significant step” in enriching the cloud developer experience.
Attending the event for the first time in a decade, Orange’s new CEO Christel Hedemann said that while telcos already have the experience of existing API exposures to developers, the Open Gateway initiative was “a fantastic opportunity to investigate a new field of network opportunities”.
She added that Orange was working hard to provide easy-to-use network APIs that any developer could consume to create innovative services.
“We know our networks and we can manage their deep technical complexity but we’ll offer a simple way to access its numerous functions,” she said.
Fair play rules
However, this openness comes with a caveat: Hedemann and Álvarez-Pallete stated in no uncertain terms during the keynote that the hyperscalers (big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon etc) needed to start contributing towards the cost of network infrastructure in Europe.
“We’ve invested more than 600bn Euros over the last decade. Fair play rules start with acknowledging the unbalanced situation today,” said Hedemann.
“Five or the largest online traffic generators account for 55% of daily traffic on telco networks. This is a $15bn cost borne by European telcos each year. Regulators have a major role to play to balance this unsustainable situation,” she said.
Orange, and other GSMA members are calling for a commercial European framework, which would require heavy traffic users to pay a fair contribution towards costly 5G and broadband.
The mobile operators appear to have found an ally in EU Commissioner Thierry Breton – a former Orange/ France Telecom CEO – who set up a consultation to explore funding options last week as part of the EU’s proposed Gigabit Infrastructure Act. Breton was also present at yesterday’s keynote.
Hedemann added: “We’re not asking to change Europe’s net neutrality principles nor are we asking for a new tax mechanism. But we do need a fair and direct contribution to network cost that will help create the better conditions we urgently need to keep investing privately rather than requiring public funding.”
Meta, Google, Apple, Amazon and Netflix however do see it as an ‘internet tax’ and one that undermines EU rules to treat all users equally.
Dutch Minister for Economy Micky Adriaansens told Reuters that the act may end up penalising consumers who subscribe to both streaming and telco services, as it is they who are likely to bare the brunt of any cost hikes.
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