Nokia thinks it’s got the network code for successful APIs

  • Nokia is on a mission to give developers the tools they need to create snazzy new 5G applications
  • Nokia this week announced its Network as Code platform will run on Google Cloud
  • The Google deal is part of a multi-faceted approach to creating more value for 5G networks

It’s been about nine months since Nokia unveiled its Network as Code platform and developer portal, with Dish Network as its first named carrier partner.

Now it’s got at least 10 service providers on board and with this week’s reveal that the platform will run on Google Cloud, the pool of potential developers joining the ecosystem is a whole lot bigger.

The Network as Code platform is designed to simplify things for developers so they can easily integrate software code into applications. It involves the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that everyone is talking about these days to drive new business models and (hopefully) make some serious bank from 5G networks.

Worldwide market revenue for APIs was just over $700 million in 2023, according to IDC, but the firm expects worldwide revenues for telecom and network APIs will reach $6.7 billion in 2028.

Given the challenges in Nokia’s mobile business, it’s no wonder it’s looking for new revenue sources.

Nokia last week unveiled its Network Exposure Platform (NEP), which represents the first known implementation of the GSMA Operator Platform. Nokia’s NEP lends credibility to the GSMA Open Gateway framework that was launched at MWC 2023 with 21 mobile network operators and has grown to more than 45.

Shkumbin Hamiti, head of Network Monetization Platform, Cloud and Network Services at Nokia, told Fierce that it is his hope that more than 30 operators will sign onto Nokia’s Network as Code platform by the end of this year.

“We are trying to cover as many countries and operators as possible” to make it a very uniform experience for developers, he said. 

Harmonizing APIs

Besides GSMA, a lot of organizations are working on APIs. Nokia said its NEP will support Linux Foundation CAMARA APIs, TM Forum Open APIs, edge-based APIs and other APIs for connecting networks securely to a broader B2B digitized ecosystem.

Raghav Sahgal, president of Cloud and Network Services at Nokia, acknowledged that a lot of network API initiatives are underway.

“These are all good for our industry because they all allow you to harmonize APIs and drive the APIs, which is very much needed for our industry to connect into the ecosystem that is developing on the northbound side,” he told Fierce. “Nokia’s position has been to play with all of these initiatives and add even more to it so that we can make a richer set of APIs,” which consumers and enterprises can get through the developer ecosystem.

“Our strategy is to bring multiple ecosystems onto the platform and not just focus on one ecosystem because nobody can control one ecosystem. You have to enable multiple ecosystems and this is why we are partnering with other ecosystem players,” he said.

What’s the ultimate objective?

The mobile industry traditionally has been a connectivity player, and “what we want to be able to do is … generate new capabilities of the network so it’s not just about providing connectivity. It’s about providing the capability of the network and exposing that to the ecosystem of applications, which can consume these capabilities,” such as device location, device insights and quality of service, Sahgal said.

In the previous generation, 4G LTE enabled applications like Uber and a lot of folks like to talk about how 5G is going to support the next Uber or some kind of killer app or apps. Is this what it’s all about? Do they want to find the next Uber or oodles of Ubers?

Sahgal suggested there’s more to it than that. “You have to think about monetization, not just on the consumer side. You have to think about monetization in the industrial space. There’s a very low level of digitalization there, it’s only about 30 to 40 percent digitalized.”

A lot of digitalization needs to happen, and that’s why Nokia is driving private networks as well as the API economy, he said. Today, Nokia has more than 730 private networks and over 167 of them are in North America. The idea is that with digitalization and APIs, these industries can consume the network in a new – and better – way that they’re willing to pay for.

Enterprise IT and consumer (think AR/VR) are two other segments Nokia is targeting.  

One pretty cool example of APIs doing their thing is a trial that Nokia conducted with Liberty Global at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium. Liberty Global’s Belgian subsidiary Telenet used 5G standalone (SA) network slicing and Nokia’s Network as Code platform to deliver high-definition video so that remotely located captains could maneuver shipping vessels. Check out this video.

As for Nokia’s collaboration with Google Cloud, Fierce asked about Nokia’s work with other cloud providers, and a spokesperson said that currently, Nokia’s API work is largely focused on Google “from a hyperscaler and public perspective.” The pact initially is focused on the healthcare industry.

Sizing it up

IDC analyst John Byrne said the Nokia/Google Cloud collaboration reflects another path to market – among many.

The market is still nascent and Nokia has done a good job addressing multiple paths at once, “including partnering with the hyperscalers that have all amassed large bases of cloud developers who are fully immersed in APIs and have broad reach, both geographically and among target verticals,” he told Fierce.

Besides the technical issues of how APIs are offered and consumed by developers, much larger issues are related to how they will be monetized and who will be best positioned to take them to market, he noted.

Ericsson’s approach thus far is closely related to the Vonage developer community, “so essentially CPaaS+, but I expect Ericsson will also offer many paths to market as the opportunity continues to evolve,” he said.

Alas, there’s still a lot of work to do. “The biggest challenge is articulating a value proposition and long-term network API/service API bundle roadmap that developers can understand and integrate into their plans, and to date no one has done a great job in this area,” Byrne concluded.