Open APIs are key to unleashing 5G potential

GSMA Open Gateway and CAMARA industry initiatives make it far easier for developers to make use of network capabilities. With the upcoming release of 3GPP Release 18, yet more capabilities will be added to 5G networks, which so far, have already been transformative for enterprise across the globe. The demand is clear, 5G is the most quickly deployed mobile technology to date and both business and consumers want more. Yet what’s been deployed so far has only been a teaser of what’s to come – both operators and their customers are keen to deploy 5G’s most advanced features on a wider scale, and more quickly.

Getting to this point is one of the industry’s chief challenges of the day, and of course, key to maximising 5G’s commercial potential. As summarised by George Zhao, Deputy Chief Marketing Officer for Whale Cloud at the MWC23 Barcelona 5G Futures Summit session “The Power of Open APIs to Federate Cloud Networks” “5G will enable more and more, it’s necessary to make the most of 5G’s capabilities and services – and Open APIs are key”. Across the industry there seems to be a growing consensus that Open APIs will be one of most decisive factors in determining the scale of success of 5G. Why? Because in essence, they make it far easier for third-party service providers to make use of the new network capabilities 5G has to offer.

As put by Juan Carlos Garcia Lopez, SVP Technology Innovation and Ecosystem for Telefónica “Open APIs are critical to the future of digital services – they are not only a new way of deploying networks, but also of managing their services. They’re also a way to monetise new capabilities available to us and a way for us to make new services available to our customers in an easy way”. Neil Tomkinson, Chief Information Officer for U Mobile underscored this point: “the future is about connecting third parties, not just your own ecosystem”.

As it stands, third-party developers face network complexities that vary from operator to operator when using their APIs to develop services. For Nathan Rader, VP Cloudified Production for Deutsche Telekom, “they work but they don’t work for the average developer.” In Rader’s view, Open APIs are the necessary means to simplify how third parties make use of new network services. “In order for companies – especially small, innovative start-ups – to achieve scale, they need to use the same APIs in multiple countries. We need to have consistent APIs in as many countries as possible.”

“Open APIs are the necessary means to simplify how third parties make use of new network services.” Nathan Rader, VP Cloudified Production for Deutsche Telekom

GSMA Open Gateway and CAMARA are gaining momentum

What could be the model that leads this breakthrough? This answer lies in GSMA Open Gateway, a framework of common network APIs designed to provide universal access to operator networks for developers. Supported by 23 major operators, the Open Gateway will help deploy services more quickly across operator networks via single points of access to the world’s largest connectivity platform. Alongside the GSMA Open Gateway is CAMARA, an open source project within the Linux Foundation to define, develop and test the APIs. CAMARA works in close collaboration with the GSMA Operator Platform Group to align API requirements and publish API definitions and APIs.

So far, the GSMA Open Gateway launched at MWC23 Barcelona with eight network APIs. One for example, is the Device Location (Verify Location), which is used to help companies detect a person’s true location. Through standardisation of this API, fraud can be detected and dealt with more efficiently by banks. The bank may query the API upon detecting a cash withdrawal or credit card use attempt from an unexpected location. The location verification feeds into the bank risk decision engine and security measures are applied accordingly by the bank. Another API launched at the global connectivity event in March was Quality on Demand, which has been used for remote maintenance of large industrial energy, such as wind turbines, when they breakdown.

So, what are the next steps for Open APIs? Add additional APIs though 2023 and beyond, strengthen the community with technical steering groups and develop plans for lifecycle management consistency. With these steps achieved, Juan Carlos Garcia Lopez commented that the industry could then reach “their intention that these API services become as universal as voice, SMS and internet access on the mobile network.”

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