GSMA has universal open APIs if you want ’em

GSMA universal open APIs Open Gateway
Somewhere at MWC 2023, everything works better together. Image credit: GSMA

It wouldn’t be MWC without a big initiative announcement from the GSMA. This year’s entry: the GSMA Open Gateway, a framework of universal network APIs to provide developers with universal access to operator networks to create apps and services.

The GSMA has been talking about the benefits of open network APIs for a long time. But while telcos have embraced open APIs in theory, in practice developers who want to leverage network APIs are still having to deal with different “open” APIs for different networks. Naturally, they’d much rather have a Twilio-type model where their app works with every network in the world.

Which is why at last year’s MWC, the GSMA and Linux Foundation launched Camara, an open-source project to help developers access “enhanced network capabilities” in in a way that allows them to create apps and services that work on any mobile network. The new northbound APIs under Open Gateway have been defined, developed and published under Camara.

From the press release:

GSMA Open Gateway will help developers and cloud providers enhance and deploy services more quickly via single points of access to operator networks. This is achieved via common, northbound service APIs that simply expose mobile operators’ network capabilities within a consistent, interoperable and federated framework.

AWS and Microsoft are onboard

Again, this is not a new idea – but the rise of 5G and digital ecosystems has perhaps generated a new sense of urgency on the topic. 5G will likely enable the creation of new OTT apps and services that leverage 5G’s unique capabilities we can’t even imagine today. And with mobile operators having been mostly relegated to bit pipes for much of the 4G / OTT smartphone apps era, open universal northbound APIs could provide an opportunity for them to finally monetize their new apps created for 4G, 5G and beyond.

The concept of universal network APIs also slots in well with the GSMA’s general selling point of interoperability that made SMS and roaming such successes – which is something that 5G services will also need to support if telcos really want roaming revenues to make a big comeback.

José María Álvarez-Pallete López, chairman of the GSMA Board and chair/CEO of Telefónica, says as much in his obligatory praise color quote:

“By federating open network APIs and applying the roaming concept of interoperability, mobile operators and cloud services will be truly integrated to enable a new world of opportunity. Collaboration amongst telecom operators and cloud providers is crucial in this new digital ecosystem.”

Perhaps notably, in addition to the 21 cellcos who have signed onto the Open Gateway initiative (the full list is in the press release but it’s mostly who you’d expect), Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have officially endorsed it.

(By perhaps no coincidence, both have just launched new telco-related offerings. Last week, AWS launched “Telco Network Builder”, which lets carriers use its cloud to build and scale 5G and other networks, and another service for building and managing private wireless networks. This week, Microsoft Azure unveiled a suite of new AI tools for telcos to manage their networks.)

GSMA serving suggestions

The first eight network APIs to be released include: SIM Swap, QoD, Device Status (Connected or Roaming Status), Number Verify, Edge Site Selection and Routing, Number Verification (SMS 2FA), Carrier Billing – Check Out and Device Location (Verify Location). The GSMA says more APIs are in the pipeline to be released later this year.

Just what mobile operators will do with those APIs remains to be seen, but the GSMA has some suggestions:

Examples of services supported by the introduction of GSMA Open Gateway include to support autonomous vehicles and Verify Location for fleet management and incident reporting; SIM Swap to combat financial crime and QoD for drones, robotics, eXtended Reality (XR) and immersive online gaming.

Meanwhile, many of the telco signatories are staging flashy demos of API-based apps at Fira Gran Via this week. For example:

  • Axiata is hosting an ‘immersive concert experience’ using the APIs for Device Location, Carrier Billing and Authentication
  • KT is demonstrating of B2B use cases with MEC built on Edge Site Selection and Routing APIs
  • The 5G Future Forum is using the Edge Site Selection API to stage a live ‘jam session’ with musicians around the world
  • Orange, Telefónica, Vodafone and Ericsson/Vonage have teamed up to produce an ‘immersive gaming, and high definition video showcase’ based on the Quality on Demand (QoD) API.

The GSMA says the initiative will support engagement over the next 12 months via Early Adopter Programmes for developers. It will also promote Open Gateway APIs via developer channels such as Microsoft’s Ignite and Build and AWS’ re:Invent.

Related article: API-first reality – agreement on the opportunities but hesitation to act

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