Network API demos on the floor at MWC

Looking at the telco network API demos at MWC24

Telco and network APIs are the latest hope of the industry to revitalise itself and give it a play in the developer economy. McKinsey,commissioned by the GSMA, has  said that operators might be able to “unlock” an additional $300 bllion.

The idea is that telcos expose business and network capabilities so that developers can build them into applications and services. The GSMA said on the first morning of MWC24 that a year after launching its Open Gateway, 47 operators have now signed up. Of those, 40 operators have made a combined 94 APIs available commercially in 21 countries.

So what does network API exposure look like? On the exhibition floor at MWC, several operators lined up network API demos. APIs can be access direct from an operator’s developer portal, from a wholesaler like Infobip, or from a partner marketplace like AWS or Vonage.

Sony and DT are showing how live broadcast productions could take advantage of the Quality on Demand API to ensure that the dynamically chosen “main” camera on a live broadcast is always equipped with the best quality link.

Orange is showing commercially live services – number verification and SIM Swap detection use cases for retailers. This acts like a decentralised digital id for a customer to use their phone for payment, with Orange receiving an API call to check the number against the user ID,and perform a SIM Swap check – making sure that the SIM has not been recently stolen and swapped. In Spain, Telefonica and Vodafone are offering exactly the same APIs, meaning that developers can access the same API to verify customer ID for transactions, independent of who the customer’s service provider is. Orange is already working with Vonage and it said that Azure is about to become a live partner too –  it’s currently in testing.

Another Orange demo was a customer location API –using a network cell-ID location signifier showing that two devices are in proximity with each other – i.e. where they should be when a sale is being made. This is a way around GPS spoofing when a business needs to verify the location of a customer or asset. This is still a lab trial and the location sensitivity is deliberately set to a 2km radius to protect customer privacy.

Perhaps the most intriguing was a Network Aware Services API demo that Vodafone was running. This is a lab trial run with VMWare’s near real time Radio Intelligent Controller (RIC). It envisaged a cell capacity being maxed out by users streaming video. In such instances, the video provider is unaware, and continues to keep trying to serve hi def video to all users, and sending what is known as pre-fetch content, which continues to congest cell capacity.

Vodafone's demo showed how developers can subscribe to APIs from the RIC (Radio Intelligent Controller) to understand more about the service experience of users within a cell - in this case performance of streaming video.

The idea is that a developer can choose to subscribe to APIs from the RIC that carry certain information, and can then set parameters that will trigger actions such as downrating the definition of the video, or changing the codec.

KPIs coming from the xApp on the VMWare RIC. Could developers subscribe to such APIs to better control the service experience of their users?

Vodafone said it there had been some contact with Meta and Netflix but there has been no formal use of its APIs in trials by any of the big content or social media providers.

GSMA press release

These demos are just scratching the surface. A release from the GSMA had a long list of API launches including:

  • Four Sri Lankan operators who have launched three APIs on a single operator platform providing robust authentication to secure customer online transactions;
  • Three Brazilian operators who have launched three APIs to combat fraud;
  • Three Spanish operators who have announced the launch of two anti-fraud APIs, working with online retailers;
  • Four Indonesian operators who launched three APIs to improve online security and customer experience; and
  • Three South African operators who are combatting fraud and digital identity theft in sectors including banking, finance, insurance, and retail through two new APIs.
  • Three German operators who have today made two APIs available to help app developers and enterprises tackle online fraud and protect the digital identities of mobile customers.