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08 March 2024

API ecosystems? MWC brought these into focus. Where do you sit in your API partner journey?

At MWC 24, many operators announced the availability of public APIs – but who is going to use them? Are these initiatives targeted to the right users? Not if you’re not working with the right ISVs and SIs.

Have you launched an open API programme – or are you thinking about doing so?

Many operators announced public API programmes at MWC this year. Apart from all the noise surrounding Open RAN and AI, this was surely one of the most important topics. As you may know, we’ve been helping operators with API-enablement for many years – so, let’s take a look at what’s behind the latest round of news.

At first sight, this is great news. APIs open up operator networks to third parties, which can, in turn, create new value from operator-owned assets. The guiding principle is that operator networks have latent value that can be unlocked by combining capabilities with others that are external to their networks – or which complement and extend external offers.

All well and good. Operator capabilities – such as mobile location, status, call handling and so on, can all add value to other applications. But, the real question is, who is the target of these announcements?

Is the intention to inspire third parties to hook up to these APIs and integrate with their own systems? Is it a ‘build it and see who comes’ play? If so, it’s interesting news but it’s unlikely to drive much revenue to operators.

Having open APIs doesn’t mean enterprises will actually use them

That’s because simply making an API publicly available may not really achieve a great deal. Potential users might not understand what they can access (or why it can augment and enhance an existing application or service they run), while operators may be targeting too broad an audience.

All of this has been done in the past. There have been numerous initiatives to deliver open APIs to the global developer community, many of which have floundered. This year’s slew of announcements builds on news from MWC 23 on the launch of GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative - a topic on which we commented, here.

The news from MWC 24 illustrates how many operators have bought into this initiative and have climbed on board with their implementation of the Open Gateway concept. It’s great – perhaps this will lead to critical mass, but we think there’s something more that’s needed here.

What’s the right model for an Open API initiative? Choose your audience

As we noted, just because an API is available, it doesn’t mean that anyone will use it. How do you drive API integration and consumption? Well, one model that has been proven over the last decade is enabled by our gateways. In this case, the operator doesn’t make the APIs generally accessible, but rather targets them towards Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Systems Integrators (SIs) who target enterprise customers.

With this model, it’s not the enterprises that carry out the integration, it’s the ISVs and SIs. They enrich their existing solutions with operator-enabled capabilities and then release these enhancements to their enterprise customers.

This means that the APIs are not accessed by the widest addressable market, but rather by a highly targeted segment with two primary goals:

  1. They already have an interest in extending the scope and functionality of their applications to enhance their differentiation
  2. They already understand and have an interest in accessing operator network functions

In other words, the operator doesn’t need to sell the API concept as such, they are speaking to an audience that is already eager for the capabilities exposed by the APIs. So, how does this new activity at MWC 24 align with this model?

Talk to Gintel to find out how to really make this work

It’s too early to tell – but unless effort is expended in targeting the right partners, it’s likely that the results will not match the hype these announcements have created. API-driven economy or damp squib? Likely the latter – unless targets are carefully addressed.

We’ve been helping operators monetise API offers for more than 10 years, so we understand both the capabilities that are in demand, as well as the absolute necessity of targeting efforts to an audience that needs little persuasion – ISVs and SI. So, if you want to get on board with an open API initiative, then it’s worth talking to our team. We know what it takes and can help you deliver.

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