Does anyone actually want 5G open APIs?

  • GSMA launched its Open Gateway API program at last year’s MWC, but commercial action remains low

  • Nokia is hoping that its NaC platform will simplify API usage for developers and CSPs

  • Claro, TIM and Vivo are using the GSMA’s APIs to help detect bank fraud

Open 5G application programming interfaces (APIs) were a hot ticket at last year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) show. But all that fanfare has left us wondering where things stand nearly a year later. 

GSMA launched its Open Gateway API program at the show with some 21 network operators, including AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom and more, backing the idea. The group issued standardized APIs under the Linux Foundation's CAMARA open source project. Over 200 network operators so far have joined the program.

And yet, we have not seen much action so far on the open 5G API front.

“5G (and other) APIs have attracted a lot of interest,” noted Appledore analyst Robert Curran in an email to Silverlinings. “But it is fair to say that they are not — as yet — demonstrably successful in solving the ‘how to make money from 5G networks’ problem.”

That said, things are still at an early stage, he added.

“The question is really about which capabilities of a 5G network, that can be accessed via an API, will be the most valuable in solving a business problem,” Curran said.

Curran commented that South American operators Claro, TIM Brasil and Vivo have used the 5G APIs to offer a location-validation capability which is valuable for banks to help detect potential fraud. They launched that capability at the end of November 2023.

Nokia gets on the API train

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) has also stepped into the open API market, having developed a mechanism to manage and bill for Open Gateway APIs with its Network as Code (NaC) platform, which was launched on September 26, 2023.

“Nokia NaC essentially gives telcos a way to get paid for the use of their (5G) networks, without having to build all that charging and API management — since Nokia NaC takes care of it,” Curran commented. “NaC is a software platform for developers to plug into on one side, that then makes calls to telcos' networks underneath (via Open Gateway-aligned APIs).”

We may well get more talk about open APIs, NaC and the wider 5G interfaces in Barcelona later this month. Stay tuned!