Copy
Fresh thinking about telecommunications
View this email in your browser
 

Telecoms APIs

 
The topic of telecoms APIs is close to my professional heart, as my first project in the telecoms industry was to create an open API platform for the “wireless Web”. A decade and more later, telecoms APIs and related developer platforms are an important growth area. I will be attending the Telecom Application Developer Summit in Bangkok on 21st-22nd November. The event is organised by the leading authority in the area, Alan Quayle.

READER OFFER: Subscribers to this newsletter can get a 25% discount on entry using code FutoCom25. To learn more about the event and register, click here.
 
I interviewed Alan earlier this week, and here is our joint “state of the telecom API nation” report.

MG: My early telecom API project crashed and burned, and past industry initiatives like ParlayX never took off. What has changed since the early 2000s that is triggering new and rapid growth?

AQ: Both the technology and the market have evolved. Large new developer communities have been created by Apple and Google, delivering value through those ecosystems. The need for such ecosystems and partnerships in telecoms is now driven by business demand, not technology supply, and thus is no longer seen as unusual or controversial.

Ten years ago there were developers, but the developer platforms were not as sophisticated. The technology was complex to consume, so you had to be a hardcore developer to use what was on offer. Today we have a mass developer market of people with Web development skills, and an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) market able to consume telecoms capabilities using their existing skills base.

The whole ICT industry – including ancillary services like consulting and equipment – is around a $5tn annual market. Yet it notably lacks a large-scale profitable developer ecosystem for networked service delivery. Why has it failed? Historically there have been too many silos, and too much friction to engage with them. What we are now seeing are companies like Apidaze, Bandwidth, OpenCloud, Plivo, Telestax, Tropo, and Twilio eliminating both of these. Lots of money is being spent on marketing to developers, creating a new business opportunity that telcos and broader ecosystem can take advantage of.

Notably this ecosystem is about more than just APIs. There's also the whole free and open source software arena too. Tools like FreeSWITCH, OpenCloud, Mobicents and WebRTC are becoming core to service innovation. Platforms like Tropo’s Ameche open up new opportunities for value-added voice services. We will be looking at the whole development stack at the Summit in Bangkok.

Who are the key consumers of telecoms APIs and what for?

Telecoms APIs are generally used by enterprises that are embedding communications into their core processes. The term “Communications Enabled Business Processes” was used in the past, but the name never took off, even if the concept did. As such, there is a quiet enterprise communications revolution going on. (See my recent article for more information.)

Lots of businesses are doing cool stuff, often to sell to other enterprises. These projects and platforms may not get much press individually, but collectively they add up to a significant market.

For example, Turkcell are a leader in this area of enterprise API delivery. However, they don’t talk about APIs, because it’s about the end user and the value from a better customer experience. They focus on promoting their enterprise services, all of which are (crucially) backed by sales team with technical support. Example services include FreeURL, where customers surf on your pages for free; customer device model and mobile number to support efficient and effective interaction regardless of end user device type; a “find the nearest store” capability to drive sales; and click to call services to capture leads.

That these telecoms services use APIs is about as interesting as them using electricity. The business value and innovation is in the enhanced customer experiences they enable.

Who makes money from producing telecoms APIs and how?

Everyone can! Telcos, intermediaries who work with the developers, enterprises and systems integrators. To make progress, however, telcos have to accept they can't do everything for themselves. For instance, you have to know what developers want – and that means Web scripting, not REST APIs. We will for the foreseeable future need middlemen who translate the value of telecoms APIs into a consumable form.

The greatest value is in customer interaction APIs. The need to communicate with suppliers and customers is fundamental to the human condition, we have been doing it for millennia, and will not stop any time soon. There are long-established markets like bulk SMS and automated calling, and these are ripe for new growth with new capabilities to interact and transact with customers.

What are the most promising areas for future growth?

The growth is around value-added services, notably around the current voice cash cow. It’s time for telcos to remember their heritage: you're the phone company. The distracting “digital lifestyle” stuff only makes money for the content companies. There are too many adjacent businesses being built where the telco doesn't have enough competence, and are competing against low-end competition (e.g. cheap webcams vs managed CCTV or home monitoring services).

Lots of consultants are selling future billion-dollar markets that don't exist. Telcos need to stick to the basic nuts and bolts of communications services, and do them better.

What are the key challenges facing this space?

The key challenge is that this game is that it requires an ecosystem, and telcos are islands. That doesn't mean they should copy Apple and Android, but instead they need to focus on segments where they have credible value and an advantage. A $5tn industry should be able to do this.

What it requires is a whole offering, including sales, business development and support. API-enablement is just a piece of technology, and this cannot be led from a network or IT function; it’s a line of business. The improvement and value to the customers has to come first, and getting the mindset right is hard. We have proof points that you can make money, thanks to companies like Telestax, Tropo and Twilio, if you build a whole supply chain.
 
I run workshops and do consulting on cutting-edge business strategy and technology problems in broadband, voice and messaging. I also partner with the best industry independent analysts and network performance experts. Together with my associates, we have absolutely unrivalled industry knowledge, insight and connections.

To have this expertise applied to your business, hit 'reply' to get in touch.

Upcoming conferences & travel


8th October, London - Future of Voice workshop.
19th-22nd November, BangkokITU Telecom World.
21st-22nd November, Bangkok - Telecom Application Developer Summit.
28th-29th November, Berlin - Future Seamless Communications Forum.
3rd-5th March, San Francisco - eComm.

Need a keynote speaker for your customer conference? Get in touch! 

Subscription and back issues


This newsletter is free. If it was forwarded to you, and you are not yet subscribed, then sign up hereThe hyperlink to this article and recent newsletter back issues is here.

Twitter
Twitter
LinkedIn
LinkedIn
Website
Website
Copyright © 2013 Martin Geddes Consulting Ltd, All rights reserved.
unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences