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Application programming interfaces (APIs) are widely used in IT and telecom as the need for a secure exposure platform arises to make the development easier, brings agility to the creation of services, and hides complexity. This makes APIs an obvious choice for providers to implement over-restrictive and expensive integration techniques.

Integration is one of the success factors in a company’s digital transformation efforts, considering the time and cost required to add new systems and establishing configurations with other devices, systems, and vendors. In fact, the telecom API market is expected to reach over $500 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of over 17% between 2021-2026. As per Mordor Intelligence, rapid innovations in technology, along with the increasing penetration of telecom cloud-based services, would drive the growth of this market.

Traditional API techniques are now made better to further improve business and IT agility, responding to an ever-changing marketplace of opportunities. Open APIs are shifting companies, including telcos, to build more adaptable and robust solutions, reducing complexity, costs and timescales for integration projects.

API-enabled telco services

CSPs have begun exploring APIs, from deploying customer interfaces to communication services. Adopting this new holistic approach brings opportunities to focus on ecosystem enhancement, curated features, easy integration, and seamless end-to-end customer experience.

API implementations should address consumer and service provider needs, exposing core telecom services of CSPs in a very adaptable way that is easy to integrate. With regards to this, the solution should be designed for seamless scaling to ensure progressive growth.

The API-enabled telco services existing today cover voice, messaging, in-app payments, identity management, network monitoring, and customer information. First among various examples is Etisalat's smart CPaaS, a carrier-grade cloud-ready API platform for SMS, voice, video, and verification. This infrastructure is built for high-volume and low-latency experience, for both operators and enterprises, letting them integrate CPaaS applications to scale fast while maintaining better quality and control.

Furthermore, MEF's lifecycle service orchestration (LSO) is enabling end-to-end service orchestration to deliver digital and connectivity services between providers, enterprises, and the cloud. It operates enterprise APIs (customer-to-service-provider interactions), east-west APIs (inter-provider interactions), and north-south APIs (intra-provider interactions).

Nokia's telecom application server (TAS) also provides a superset of services for VoLTE, VoWiFi, and fixed access networks, with open APIs and an integrated Java execution. Thus, it provides a programmable services environment that can be used for voice, messaging, and video sessions for SIP subscribers, either LTE or other broadband access.

In the same context, PCCW Global's Console Connect is an API-enabled, globally accessible, and uncontended MPLS network for secure, automated, and dedicated connections. This trusted Tier 1 global network not only lets customers connect to business-critical applications with just a click but also set up, terminate, change or upgrade connectivity from anywhere.

Another one on the list is Red Hat’s API-centric agile integration solution for OSS and BSS processes and systems. It combines multi-vendor products with customer-owned systems via its OpenShift Container Platform and API management solutions to modernize and scale on-demand applications as well as provide API-centric third-party system integration.

Similarly, B-Yond's platform is an API-first, cloud-native microservices architecture taking the power of artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) to keep pace with network data at the production level and informed decision-making through a continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) approach that minimizes change impact on networks.

With the explosion of IoT, telco APIs are going to grow and provide a massive revenue stream to operators and service providers wishing to monetize network transformation, particularly into 5G.

Open APIs in the 5G world

Telcos have been using APIs as key technology enablers in building new applications, efficiently and conveniently. Serving like digital matchmakers, APIs help supply an unprecedented array of goods and services for customers.

Very evident today is telcos being at the threshold of 5G technology, creating additional requirements for network exposure. Hence, telco API exposure must support access to microservices architecture-based network functions, as well as different customized sets of APIs from the 5G core.

With its openness and programmability, a 5G core network can act as a key service enabler. The new application ecosystem will convey customized programmable assets as a platform for collaboration and innovation among CSPs, and let developers use the open assets to accelerate the development of new apps and services.

CSPs have an important role in the 5G world, where open APIs can be utilized. Thus, new open API-based services can build a successful model to develop consumer services, find the differentiators, and maximize opportunities for monetization.

Open APIs are a driver of the digital platform economy and one of the key strategic assets on the path to digital transformation. In parallel, telecom operators can leave behind the traditional business model and value chain in order to adopt the B2B2X model and deliver digital services to any user.

One use case for this is 5G positioning technologies which provide better support for many industries in terms of enterprise management, security monitoring, emergency rescue, trip monitoring, and the like. These are key driving forces behind 5G innovation, spanning the UE, 5G RAN, and 5G core. Huawei and China Mobile (Shanghai) dedicated a whitepaper to define 5G network positioning APIs of different types and functions, which enable industry customers to access location services and improve collaboration. With these APIs, facilitating geofence, map management, location alarm, and track query, among others, can be done by operators' 5G positioning platforms.

In 5G, CSPs and enterprises can easily expose and activate new capabilities through APIs. This boosts the programmability and adaptability of connectivity services. Ericsson explained that network exposure provides the capability to convert technical features and standardized network APIs in response to addressing a developer community with limited to no telecom experience. On the same line, simplifying 5G programmability involves combining easy-to-use service APIs that hide network complexity.

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