Telcos and APIs: Got an Ology?

British Telecom TV ads of the ‘80s are fondly remembered. Their star, suburban housewife Beattie (geddit?), encouraged a nation to talk.

In one famous ad, Beattie comforts her hapless grandson about his dismal exam results. Discovering he’s at least passed sociology, she exclaims: “You get an Ology, you’re a scientist!”

Many telecom operators think the same about getting an API.

APIs were the currency of conversation at 2013’s Mobile World Congress, where a mood of optimism was palpable. Discussion included:

Do telecom operators really know how to profit from APIs – and which ones? Two-thirds of telcos have an API initiative underway, according to Informa’s Exposing Telecom APIs survey (extract below), which quizzed 369 API stakeholders across 60 countries.

Some good news: 75% of non-telco API stakeholders surveyed believe demand for telecom APIs will grow. Less good: Operators’ API initiatives are said to be ‘fragmented,’ ‘inconsistent,’ with ‘universal coalitions/standards [that] never work.’

Reality check: Merely having an API (or many) doesn’t create a business. As Apigee’s Sam Ramji rightly says, APIs are how people get to your business. APIs simplify complexity. They enable quick and efficient consumption of digital services and resources.

There’s a big difference between making money from creating an API, from using an API to improve business processes, from the consumption that an API triggers, from managing and distributing APIs. It’s good to talk to API enablers such as Aepona, Apigee, Layer 7 Technologies, 3 ScaleTwilio, Verious or Voxeo – many of which are eager to work with more operators.

But let’s not sugar coat getting an ‘Ology – or an API – for what it ain’t.

Informa analysts can help you navigate and profit from the API ecosystem. For Consumer advisory services, contact Guillermo Escofet. For Enterprise cloud and vertical market advisory services, contact Camille Mendler. For Network infrastructure advisory services including SDN and NFV, contact Dimitris Mavrakis.