My Initial Take on the Telenor / Telefonica Announcement on APIs

Telefonica and Telenor made an announcement that they will be cooperating on APIs.  Here’s my initial take given the information available:

  1. As normal the press have confused apps and APIs. This has nothing to do with app distribution, its about about APIs.  Think of an API as a service available from the operator, so TEF and Telenor are delivering a common service.
  2. The focus initially is carrier billing (please don’t say in-app, its more than that) for any store, they named Facebook, Google, Microsoft and RIM; and there are many many more stores: Apple, Amazon, eBay, xbox, PS3, Wii, Tesco online, etc.  That’s the thinking used in the revenue projections on APIs shown in this article. Wherever there’s a check-out (online or physical) there’s the opportunity for carrier billing. The main barriers being the fee (traditionally way too high) and the type of goods being sold (banking regs apply for some goods). But if carriers want to be serious about carrier billing then they need to get that sorted.
  3. This has nothing to do with long tail developers. Its operator partners and large retail businesses, mid-tail stuff. Its nice to see this sensible business focus.
  4. The challenge is why use TEF/Telenor than an aggregator which offers full national / European coverage? This may be the limiting factor of the addressable ecosystems, they have to be working through Telefonica / Telenor for it to make business sense. Else continue with the current aggregator deal, which will likely continue the ‘bait and switch’ from mobile payment to other lower fee payment mechanisms.
  5. Such co-operation between TEF and Telenor is a template for the future, if operators don’t work together in a commercially focused enterprise, the web-based service providers will continue to wipe the floor with them on service innovation.
  6. But I remain frustrated in announcements that go “Woohoo!” and then lack the detail and web links to enable a proper business evaluation. I have companies asking me what does it mean, and all I can say is: “I don’t know, there isn’t enough information, just keep watching.”