Telecom APIs Event 2014: Go To Market is Critical

telecom apiEven though we’ve had three Telecom API events this year: June in Munich, this one in Oct in London, and the Service Delivery Innovation Summit in London in Sept (previously known as the SDP Global Summit) the event ended up being busier than expected with a relatively high % of telcos.

I ran a pre-conference workshop on Telecom APIs, the slides are shown below, it was packed. One of the things I enjoy in the workshops is the frank sharing of real-world experiences on APIs. I reviewed the market situation, the relevance of APIs to Telecoms, a review of some of the operators experiences including AT&T, Telus, Etisalat, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Verizon, Turkcell; mapping the landscape; reviewing how we are building the Telecom Application Developer ecosystem; and focusing on the most significant challenge we have on go-to-market. Which will be addressed at TADSummit 12-13 November in Istanbul.

At the main event it was a bit of a mea culpa on chasing the long tail in developed markets was a mistake. This theme came through on several presentations that developing markets are quite different to developed marketing in the role APIs can play for telcos. While for internal and partner use it is the same and much more successful. There was by most telcos a positive rejection of OneAPI, yet the GSMA continues to ignore the industry.

Andreas from VisionMobile showed telcos how to leverage the platforms of Apple and Andorid to compete. Laurent and Aureilien of Orange relaunched their open innovation program with an interesting mix of approaches. Rob from Deutsche Telekom showed a pragmatic approach given its learning from Developer Garden. Andreas from Telefonica provided an AA (Architects Anonymous) session which is excellent and a use in my workshops. Matteo showed how to bridge IoT devices with PONTE. Vincenzo from Telecom Italia showed how to make APIs easy, and I use his excellent slides in my workshops. Sebastian from T-Mobile gave an important presentation on the role WebRTC can play for Telcos – and I will be using his slides in my workshops 😉  Victor updated us on WebRTC. Kornel from Play showed the conservative steps WebRTC adoption must take to get business buy-in. Juan from Comverse (previously Solaiemes) showed some practical applications of RCS / WebRTC services. And Brage from Telenor (which has been in the Telecom API business for 15 years) showed the importance of some APIs that simply work across operators – and no this does not mean standardization is required 😉

My presentation focused on the processes around Telecom APIs, see presentation below. Its recommendation is simply to copy what’s already working in the enterprise for internal processes. The main gap is in go-to-market, which is a key focus of TADSummit. For industry-wide processes I highlighted the need to adopt a more web-centric model to some standardization, that is let the market show the way, rather than pre-ordain through standards created by people with no relevant experience. The existing telco standards model works for UNI/NNI specs, so I’m not saying its all broken we just need to use it more judiciously.

Guillermo Escofet, Senior Analyst, Ovum opened the event with “Are carriers giving up on the long tail and standardization?”  The short answer is yes for developed markets, while there is still a window in emerging markets. Though down-beat he was accurate on the challenges with external APIs in developed markets.

Dean Bubley, Disruptive Analysis opened Day 2 with “Telecom APIs: Introduction & WebRTC.” Which shows the revenue challenge facing the industry and the lack of clarity on what is going to plug that revenue gap.

Andreas Constantinou, CEO & Principal Analyst of Vision Mobile presented on “The Ecosystems Recipe: What Telecoms can learn.” Which shows how telcos must leverage the dominant Apple and Android platforms, not compete.

Laurent Benveniste, Programme Director, Orange APIs presented on “making a place in the API world” which reviewed Orange’s restarted API program. And Aurélien DUVAL-DELORT – Orange Technocentre AMEA went into more detail on “Orange AMEA API Program. “ The key is Orange in Africa can copy the success of Dialog Axiata and Etisalat Sri Lanka. Orange is taking a ‘Orange’ centric approach like AT&T. Which makes sense for some lines of business, but not all. The Orange Cloud API is interesting in building value around the free 100GB of storage some Orange customers receive. The challenge will be addressable market and the channel to market Orange provides, else it will go the same way as all the other API initiatives. Go to market is critical. Also critical will be speed of execution in developing markets before smartphones and online competitors catch-up, so Orange can remain a contender for distribution of services. As we’ve seen in the Philippines the switch from a low to high smartphone penetration country only took a couple of years.

Rob Thompson – Deutsche Telekom gave an excellent presentation on “Transforming Telco and Api Business for C21.” He succinctly captured the root causes of many external API failures to date, and made some simple recommendation on focus on big partners to drive scale, with assets not easily available online, and small teams that also develop the market. We’re definitely be building on his advice at TADSummit.

Sebastian Schumann, Senior Designer, Slovak Telecom gave a very important presentation on “What is the current service provider involvement with WebRTC?” WebRTC is a Web approach to RTC, its impacts are far broader than simply using the technology, it expands the ways of thinking about RTC and hence the problems telcos can solve for their customers using RTC. There are many gems of advice including: WebRTC is not a thing that is acquired, it’s a technology, an ingredient. For legacy services its more important to improve the service than ADD WebRTC.

Kornel Zątek from PLAY Poland gave a nice review of “Play Way to WebRTC, True Story of WebRTC and a Mobile Operator.” Highlighting the challenges and reinforcing Sebastian’s messages. And the event wrapped up with Brage Bjøntegaard, Senior Business Developer, Telenor Norge, Norway with “A2P Messaging successful cooperation with Partners” and a simple graph on the important of APIs working for everyone in a country.

Even with the down-beat opening, which was quiet realistic on external APIs in developed markets, Telecom APIs are seeing significant success internally, with partners, and in developing markets.  With more and more telcos eating their own dog-food in APIs, and openly sharing and learning from mistakes (which is quite unusual in the telecoms industry) we’re seeing a more focused and practical approach to using APIs throughout the business.  We’re getting there, just not fast enough, which is why getting involved in TADSummit is important to help build the telecom application developer ecosystem, standing by and watching will only continue the slow progress we’ve made to date in service innovation.