Accelerating digital transformation with open APIs

Accelerating digital transformation with open APIs By opening up their APIs, CSPs can create exciting possibilities in their hunt for newer revenue streams. Rupali Srivastava digs in to find out the opportunities that open APIs bring to the table.

Amidst globalisation and a growing need for integrated systems to achieve the optimum business edge, all industries are developing newer ways to manage traditional business problems using the best available technology. This digital transformation demands seamless and cost-effective inter-business integration, and of course, the telecoms industry is no exception.
 
If market forecasts are to be believed, it seems that revenues from traditional telecoms services such as fixed line, cable television, and mobile communications are in gradual decline, whereas the advent of convergence and new innovative services is showing more promise for revenue generation. Communications Services Providers (CSPs) are aiming to leverage a variety of services coming from various avenues such as fixed broadband business, fixed mobile convergence, mobile financial services, and cloud technologies.
 
The ever-evolving telecoms domain has long been integrating various services into their products to give users a wholesome experience, such as built-in Skype in Android phones. To achieve this, apart from using 3rd party collaborative models, what becomes essential is the use of open APIs that allow application features to be exposed for use by external developers. 
 

What are open APIs?

An open API  is an integration method that is publicly available for developers to use and access the backend data of an application, which can then be used to enhance and provide more functionality in their own applications. For example, many online services now integrate 3rd party maps or allow users to log in using their Google or Facebook credentials via the APIs these applications provide.


Why are APIs important?

  • Open APIs facilitate the use of existing resources for the delivery of services across various platforms, applications, and media. They can also help in monitoring and controlling network usage in terms of operational efficiency and error handling.
  • Recycle your resources! APIs can provide the most cost-effective way for an operator to repackage its existing assets. The APIs can be leveraged to expose various functions such as location, presence, profile, provisioning, call control, billing or mobile number portability, for example.
  • In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to imagine life without mobile phones. People expect mobility and CSPs must devise newer ways to enable other businesses to give their customers what they want, or risk falling behind the competition. Open APIs allow CSPs to partner with enterprises to enable the use of mobile services to improve customer experience about their services. For example, a mobile app that allows buying data top-ups on your mobile service on the go can be provided by anyone, giving the CSP an additional distribution channel.
  • With industry standards like REST and HTML 5 and the ongoing innovations in mobile and cloud technologies, applications and services are increasingly portable across devices, which introduce a wide range of new opportunities for CSPs. For example, a few years ago who would have thought of operating a home air conditioning unit from a mobile app while sitting in an office meeting?!

How can APIs be used in the telecom domain?

APIs can be used to directly access the core functionality or services provided by a CSP. Furthermore, CSPs can integrate additional capabilities into their own services using the APIs of 3rd party providers. Some example of API use cases are as follows:
  • Access to core BSS/OSS data such as statistical analysis, billing, vouchers, and shopping.
  • Delivering content such as streaming media, news, or weather updates.
  • Integration with social media services, such as social networking, video chat, messaging, and search engines.
  • Providing convergent services including mobile, fixed, and video across multiple devices such as smartphone, tablet, computer, and smart TVs.
By offering a set of open APIs, CSPs can help 3rd party app developers and service providers to speed up their development lifecycles and focus on their own core value proposition, rather than reinventing the wheel. In return, CSPs can increase the RoI on their own systems and earn additional revenue as a ‘platform business’.

To support the specific requirements of CSPs, the TM Forum offers a set of 50+ standardised Open APIs designed especially for telco services. Many telcos have successfully leveraged the TM Forum Open APIs as they transition from becoming a CSP to DSP. Some of the benefits of using the TM Forum Open APIs are:

  • Standardisation – In the ever-evolving world of APIs, it’s beneficial for telcos to have a standardised set of APIs that can be offered to developers with minimal effort in using, reusing, and maintaining them.
  • Quality – With big names from the telecom domain already involved in designing and building the TM Forum Open APIs, a high quality experience with minimum glitches is ensured.
  • Agility – CSPs can drastically reduce time-to-market by establishing a set of internal platform capabilities based on the Open APIs.
  • Cost effectiveness – At a time when CSPs are struggling to find newer means of revenue, Open APIs help in reducing costs by simplifying operations.

What to keep in mind when opening your APIs to everyone?

  • Long term maintenance – APIs are not easy to update as clients using them do not like having to update and retest their integration code. Therefore, once an API is published, it has to be version controlled or maintained with ‘backward compatibility’ towards older versions.
  • Efficiency and quality of service – API servers will have to cope with huge loading as multiple clients and their end-users may be accessing data 24x7. That will require robust server support and performance to ensure the best possible customer experience.
  • Near perfect APIs – Develop, test, and enhance the API until it becomes fool-proof. APIs must be resilient, performant, and error-free as any problems will directly affect the user experience. From the developers’ perspective, APIs must come with good design, comprehensive documentation, and a quick issue resolution mechanism.
  • Safeguard your data – Since APIs can potentially be used to access much of a CSP’s data, it’s extremely important for them to safeguard the interests of their customer base and ensure data security. With the aggressive implementation of data protection regulations such as GDPR, CSPs must have sufficient checks in place to determine what and how much data should be exposed, as well as ensuring that it is accessible only to the authorised users.

What to expect in the future?

As the possibilities are immense, no wonder more and more CSPs are now forging ahead and leveraging TM Forum Open APIs to give their businesses a boost and their customer base a delightful experience. At Cerillion, we have successfully demonstrated the value that the TM Forum Open APIs bring for the digital transformation of telcos. In fact, APIs also form an integral part of new-age technology solutions such as AI, Blockchain, and the Internet of Things as DSPs look for ways to drive their new phase of growth. 
 
The convergence models already adapted by many countries such as China open up a whole new space where CSPs can become platform businesses for providing services touching each part of a user’s life, right from paying for mobile top-ups and car insurance, to booking a candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant. No wonder that open APIs are proving themselves to be the floodgate of immense possibilities for CSPs in their on-going quest for digital transformation.