In response to the challenge from OTT players, operators must leverage innovation in order to differentiate their services and rate-plans. To help develop the exciting new services and applications which will lead to a level playing field, operators must allow developers to connect to the network and access the information they need to allow them to create apps. Last week, Tan Kok-Liang, VP of Engagement Practices for Singapore and Brunei at Ericsson, added weight to the debate by calling for operators to expose their APIs.
Network APIs provide a distinct interface that can allow operators to control developer interactions with their core network. API exposure can enable a variety of different business models for operators and allow developers to have the ability to create exciting, and margin improving services, such as branded app stores and web mash-ups, built on the operators’ APIs. However, exposing network APIs must also be done with care. Last year T-Mobile USA discovered this after its network performance was impacted following the release of an Android-based IM app that reconnected with the network so often, it caused network signalling overload in certain densely populated areas. This is just one example; fraudulent apps that dial or text premium numbers, without the end-user being aware, have also been launched onto operator networks.
Jonathan Bell, VP of Product Marketing at telecoms software innovator OpenCloud, believes that in exposing network APIs, operators must strike the right balance between allowing app and service innovation and keeping their network secure and fully functional. Bell believes that the deployment of a flexible, open standards-based, service layer framework allows operators to safely expose network APIs to third party development.
Operators should look at supporting independent innovation by a hierarchy of groups: At one extreme, the extensive global developer community; at the other groups of in-house developers; and groups of trusted third party developers in between. Each group should be supported with a different balance of exposed capability versus risk. Once access to network assets has been granted, developers can enjoy more freedom to innovate and support the operators’ service line-up. Offerings can be developed based on the protocols and connectivity provided by the service layer framework, cutting the cost of integration and speeding up the time to market.