Why API exposure is key for new CSP revenue streams and smarter business
The 5G IoT game can´t be played alone – there’s a whole set of partnerships that communication service providers must build to unlock the full revenue generation potential of this new market. Some of these partners will need to access BSS capabilities to build their own services and that´s when comprehensive API exposure comes in handy.
Imagine it: it’s a regular business day at any given communication service provider. The marketing department comes up with a new offer, so the IT and engineering departments roll up their sleeves:
- Create the technical resources in the online charging system
- Define bill cycle requirements in the billing system
- Create the offer in the commercial / enterprise catalog
- Make the offer available to all channels (CRM, stores, self-care, etc.)
Did you notice something in common among these steps? They were all done internally by the service provider team. The whole offer is designed, created, configured and released without any external players – all the services are built and provided by themselves only.
Now 5G and IoT have arrived, and there’s a new huge market potential for service providers. They play a key role as the connectivity owners among several different technologies (2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G). But along with the new revenue possibilities come new challenges: service providers need to address enterprise markets they hadn´t addressed before (or if they had, in a much smaller scope) which makes it harder for them to completely cover the necessary value chain alone. The main industries that are expected to generate 5G-enabled revenues are agriculture, automotive, energy and utilities, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, media and entertainment, public safety, public transport and retail. The end-to-end business flow becomes a lot more complex and includes capabilities that operators can´t provide to these industries. So how can service providers address these opportunities?
Developers, application providers, device providers, IoT service providers, distributors, resellers, integrators, and enterprises. A bunch of new players are entering the game to help service providers fulfill the complete business case. You may think that they’re eating pieces of the CSP pie, but the reality is that there would be no pie at all without them. Service providers must rely on these partners to build and provide meaningful services for these industries. Depending on the role they’ll play (remember my previous blog post 3 steps to IoT monetization?) service providers will act as one, or many of them at the same time according the use case.
When we then go down to the BSS (Business Support Systems) level (i.e., the work done by IT and engineering departments mentioned at the beginning of this text) there’s no better way to integrate with those partners than by using APIs. In general terms, an Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components or systems. It is already heavily used for integration and communication of distributed systems (including in the cloud) and offers service providers a way to expose their most important capabilities to partners in a simple and efficient way.
Let´s say a service provider partners with an IoT application developer to offer monitoring of plantations to a big agricultural corporation. Thousands of devices along the plantations would send the service provider´s 5G network real-time data to the application provider. They would expose different APIs to the partner to allow them to query the amount of devices connected to the network, the amount of data transferred in the network or even to orchestrate the application of different product offers depending on the time or season.
Open APIs for a better-connected world
This may seem complex – and it is. There are many vendors our there connecting with many other vendors and it may become a really complex environment if each different system is speaking its own language. With that in mind, TM Forum created the Open API program as a global initiative to enable end-to-end seamless connectivity, interoperability and portability across complex ecosystem-based services. Here at Ericsson, we truly believe in standardization and already signed the Open API manifesto to endorse our vision of improving business and IT agility, reducing cost, complexity and risk of integrations and operations and opening a global platform for telco-based innovation. It means that capabilities under telecom BSS domains, such as charging, billing, catalog and order care are exposed through Open APIs and can be consumed by partners to enhance their own offers. Of course, security plays a key role in this integration (as each participant is sitting in a different remote place) but we will develop this subject for another blog post.
Do partners want to access the products service providers propose to them? Product Catalog Management API is the answer. Do they want to check the eligibility of an offer for a customer? Done: Product Offering Qualification API. Need to access customer information? Customer Management API. Checking those sensors consumption? Then there’s a Usage Consumption Management API. There are plenty of possibilities to build on top of BSS APIs and create innovative services to jointly tackle the needs of the industries in the 4.0 economy.
Let´s do it together
The future is collaborative. Co-creation, design thinking, agile methodology are all methods that make people work more efficiently together. The 5G IoT opportunities take collaboration to a whole different level for service providers – different partners must be created, integrated and managed in the most efficient way possible. That´s why BSS APIs are so important. They allow service providers to offer more services than they’re able to create with their own resources.
To find out more, read the whitepaper "5G Monetization: Is your BSS equipped to effectively monetize 5G?" :Download here
Read operator reactions to shifting business models that are affecting IT, network operations and BSS in the MIT Insights reportDownload report