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11 April 2023

GSMA’s Open Gateway Initiative – will these finally enable the successful launch of commercial API models for MNOs?

New initiative seeks to support commercialisation of network APIs – but MNOs should learn from their peers that have already enjoyed success in this domain. Otherwise, success will be hard to achieve. We’ve helped Tier 1s secure rewards – ask us how to do it.

Opening up to attract developers. Haven’t we heard this before?

One of the standout announcements from Mobile World Congress 2023 was the GSMA’s new “Open Gateway Initiative”[1]. According to the press release, this:

“..will provide federated access to global network capabilities for developers – simplifying service delivery and enabling faster time to market”.

The announcement is the culmination of several years of activities, based on, first, the creation of working groups to define the scope of the API initiative, with validation through the activities of the CAMARA alliance and the Linux Foundation, which has now moved to commercial availability.

That’s good news – and the industry recognised this, as 20 leading MNOs pledged support to the initiative – with their aggregated subscriber numbers accounting for 45% of the overall base of global mobile connections. The figure, below, highlights the overall target architecture:

cloud infrastructure

(Source: GSMA)

Of course, APIs are essential, not only for creating new service value by attracting developers, but also for network and service automation, which is essential for handling the complexity and volume of data generated in new 5G networks – and which is anticipated when full-SA becomes more widely available.

Telenor has led the way, enjoying sustained success from an API ecosystem

All well and good – but API exposure is, of course, nothing intrinsically new, as we noted, here. Indeed, there have been numerous industry-wide initiatives to open APIs to developers and other stakeholders, going back several decades. Of course, many of these have vanished or been subsumed for internal operational processes. Some, however, have flourished.

For example, Telenor, which was one of the signatories of the GSMA’s MoU expressing commitment to the initiative, has long offered APIs to developers to enable the delivery of enhanced B2B services and applications.

Gintel has been at the heart of this since day 1. Our gateways provide API exposure, with requisite security procedures from the Telenor network to developers who leverage these capabilities to augment and enhance their business processes. This initiative has enjoyed considerable commercial success and has been in operation for more than a decade. So, you could say that many other operators are somewhat late to such models.

The business and commercial models are crucial

Notably, the GSMA’s announcements also refer to different business models that can be enabled – we’ll explore these in a future post – but, for now, it’s sufficient to note that business models must be clearly defined. One thing we’ve learnt from previous API platform initiatives is that the commercial relationships and incentives need to be clearly defined. If you don’t know how you can make money from adopting MNO-delivered APIs, you simply won’t spend time on any developments, or if you do, they are likely to flounder.

That was a problem with previous efforts. Technically, they may have answered the right questions, but commercially, they may have lacked that crucial ingredient. In Telenor’s case, these were defined at the outset, so the API programmes have delivered sustained success and engagement. Other efforts adopted a “build it and they will come” approach – which was insufficient to build the requisite momentum.

Do you want to learn how to capitalise on API investments? Find out with Gintel

So, it’s great to see that this is now part of the overall framework and documentation proposed. The announcement was also accompanied by news of several demonstrations and trials. Of course, we’ve seen these before, but let’s hope that commercialisation of these can follow.

And, if you are intrigued by this initiative and would like to know how you can secure real success from investments in APIs, then we can help you do so – after all, we’ve been doing this, at scale, in Tier 1 networks for more than 10 years. So, we know what we’re doing – and how operators like Telenor have succeeded where others have failed to gain the market momentum they sought. 

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