GSMA says open APIs are the key to monetizing 5G

LAS VEGAS —The GSMA says its Open Gateway initiative, which was formed to create a framework of universal APIs, is now supported by 35 mobile operators representing about 60% of all mobile subscribers.

Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, touted the Open Gateway initiative during the opening session of the Mobile World Las Vegas conference here Tuesday noting that the industry will see many more APIs being developed in the coming months.

As a refresher, the GSMA announced the Open Gateway initiative at Mobile World Congress Barcelona in February and the group has released several standardized APIs under CAMARA, an open-source project managed by the Linux Foundation in collaboration with the GSMA.  In February the GSMA said Open Gateway had the support of 21 mobile operators and now that number has grown to 35.

APIs are important to 5G because they basically allow third-party applications to use the 5G network. But to make APIs available to developers, mobile operators need to expose those network APIs so that developers can easily work with them.

According to Henry Calvert, head of networks at the GSMA, the goal of Open Gateway is to make it easier for developers to develop an application that works across multiple operator networks. “We want to reduce the complexities that they have,” he said.

One example of how developers can use open APIs is on showcase in Las Vegas where the 5G Future Forum, which is comprised of KT Corp., Verizon, Vodafone, Rogers, Telstra, America Movil and Bell Canada, worked with developer Matsuko, on a holographic application. By using an open API in the development process, Matsuko is able to host a real-time trans-Atlantic holographic meeting connecting multiple people as holograms. The holographic meeting took place in New York using Verizon’s 5G network; in Toronto, Canada, using Bell Canada’s 5G network; and in London using Vodafone’s 5G network.

The GSMA is now trying to educate developers on Open Gateway by launching its first DevCon event here. The event is focused on showing developers how to use open APIs to develop new features and capabilities.

Calvert said that the Open Gateway is also working with the its operator partners to standardize the commercial agreements between developers and operators and create template so that the terms and conditions are the same for developers.

“This is not anything new,” Calvert said. “This is how the IT industry works and how it grows. Developers understand that environment.”

Calvert explained that there are three go-to-market scenarios for developers that take advantage of the Open Network APIs.

The first is the direct model in which they work with an operator to interconnect with the operator and provide a service. Calvert said this model was probably well suited for larger development firms.

The second model is the reseller model which uses a service aggregator such as Ericsson’s Vonage or Infobip. Calvert said with this model the developer works with the service aggregator to get access to APIs.  He said that Open Gateway is working to grow this model and include other service aggregators to its mix.

The third model is through the cloud infrastructure providers and their marketplaces. Open Gateway is currently working with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) because they have marketplaces where operators can publish their APIs and then developers can access the APIs through the marketplace.