Telcos have been developing API capabilities for some years, but they have not been able to commercialise their APIs, until now.

Application programming interface (API) is an important capability for connecting software and systems.

The API allows developers to create software that use the functionality and data offered by another application or system. This enables innovation and workflow automation, and it is a critical part of the digital ecosystem.

Two key areas of opportunities for telcos

There have been major developments in 2024 such as the standardisation of APIs through the CAMARA project, which is an open-source project within the Linux Foundation to develop and test APIs in collaboration with the GSMA. There are two key areas of opportunities for the telcos – network APIs and communications APIs – but they sit in different domains and attract different developer communities. Some telco-focused vendors are now bringing the two domains together.

Nokia and Infobip recently announced a partnership to offer their developers the APIs of both companies to build applications powered by telco networks. Infobip’s cloud-enabled communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) provides developers with APIs for integrating real-time omnichannel communications features such as SMS, voice, video, chat apps, and network APIs into their applications.

Nokia’s network-as-code platform with developer portal offers developers APIs for tapping into 5G network capabilities like quality on demand, device location precision, network slicing, and 4G capabilities. While Infobip, like its CPaaS peers, are focusing on helping enterprises achieve better customer experience, it has also partnered with many telcos to give them the CPaaS capabilities that they can then offer to their business customers.

Infobip’s telco partners include BT, e&, Telefónica, T-Mobile, Vodafone, and more. It is one of a few CPaaS providers that have participated in the CAMARA project and it now has a telco-focused business. It also has an early win in Brazil to launch CAMARA-compliant APIs (Number Verify, SIM Swap, and Device Location APIs) with three mobile network operators (Claro, TIM Brasil, and Vivo [Telefônica Brasil]). The partnership between Nokia and Infobip is therefore a good fit, and it also enables the pair to counter their key rival Ericsson.

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Collaborations are helping

Ericsson completed the acquisition of Vonage in mid-2022, giving the company a CPaaS business together with Vonage’s developer community. The acquisition is starting to bear fruit since Vonage has made significant inroads into the telco sector recently with Ericsson helping to open doors. Vonage is also participating in the CAMARA project, and it has already announced collaboration with Telkomsel in Indonesia, AT&T in the US, and Deutsche Telkom in Germany to monetise network APIs.

In April 2024, Vonage also announced a partnership with Singtel to help enterprises, telcos, and developers access communications, network, and edge APIs. This announcement is significant because Singtel is integrating Vonage with its Paragon APIs into a unified telco and edge API library.

Singtel has developed Paragon, which is an all-in-one platform for 5G network, edge computing, cloud, and services orchestration. This includes a range of capabilities such as network slicing, multi-access edge compute (MEC), and a marketplace for third-party solutions. Singtel has also extended its Paragon platform to other telco partners in Thailand, Spain, Taiwan, and Indonesia. This helps Vonage gain access to more markets through more telcos. With greater scale across different markets, the combination of the strengths of Ericsson, Vonage, and Singtel has a better chance of attracting global independent software vendors, enterprises, and developers to create new solutions that leverage telcos’ 5G and related assets.

Slow progress on 5G solutions

The development of 5G-enabled solutions has been slow since many telcos do not have the resources and expertise to create solutions for different clients across industries and use cases.

Through the standardised API approach, they have a better chance of commercialising their network capabilities and enable partners and enterprises to innovate at scale. While it is still early days, this approach is promising.