The Open Gateway API Initiative: Pure Hype or a Valid Proposition?

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By Matthias Foo | 1Q 2024 | IN-7247

In February 2024, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone launched the first Open Gateway Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in the Spanish market that are centered around anti-fraud and security applications. This announcement follows earlier commercial launches of Open Gateway APIs by Communication Service Providers (CSPs) in Brazil and Sri Lanka. With major Network Equipment Vendors (NEVs), such as Nokia and Ericsson, also onboard with the Open Gateway API initiative, this ABI Insight takes a look at the growth potential for open network APIs and strategies that CSPs should employ in order to capitalize on this opportunity.

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Open Gateway API Launches Gaining Momentum


In February 2024, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone launched the first Open Gateway Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in the Spanish market that are centered around anti-fraud and security applications for financial institutions and online retailers. The first API, “Number Verification,” automatically verifies the user’s identity against their mobile phone number, simplifying user authentication processes. The second API, “SIM Swap,” enables service providers to ascertain if a mobile phone’s Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card had been recently removed or changed, thereby flagging potentially fraudulent transactions.

This announcement follows earlier commercial launches of Open Gateway APIs by Communication Service Providers (CSPs) in Brazil, Germany, and Sri Lanka, where CSPs have made available a number of Open Gateway APIs. Major Network Equipment Vendors (NEVs) are also onboard with the Open Gateway API initiative, with Nokia’s Network as Code service and Ericsson-owned Vonage being established to support the Open Gateway API initiative.

Beyond Hype: Open Gateway API Ecosystem Seeing Significant Advancements


The Open Gateway API initiative is a GSMA-led telco program that was formed out of the CAMARA open-source API development project. This initiative aims to provide a common set of network APIs that give developers universal access to CSP networks, thereby facilitating the development of new applications and services based on network information. Based on GSMA, as of February 2024, more than 40 CSPs have signed the GSMA Open Gateway Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), collectively representing 65% of mobile connections globally.

Some of the Open Gateway APIs currently available include: 1) SIM Swap (checks whether the SIM card associated with a mobile number has changed); 2) Quality on Demand (allows a developer to request specified latency or throughput for their application); 3) Device Status (provides the connectivity status for end-user equipment); 4) Number Verification (allows authentication of mobile devices by the mobile network); 5) Simple Edge Discovery (allows an application to discover and connect to the nearest edge-cloud node); 6) OTP SMS (delivers a temporary One-Time Password (OTP) to a mobile phone number via a Short Messaging Service (SMS)); 7) Carrier Billing – Check Out (allows an online merchant to process payments of digital goods via a user’s operator carrier billing system); and 8) Device Location (allows an application to check if the user is near a given location).

Major NEVs have also established services to help CSPs capitalize on the Open Gateway API initiative. For example, in late 2023, Nokia launched its Network as Code platform that provides application developers with tools such as Software Development Kits (SDKs); network API documentation, a sandbox environment for application testing; code templates, and an analytics function to track usage. At the same time, this platform also helps CSPs manage and bill for API usage. Nokia’s solution has gained traction in recent months, with a number of CSPs, such as DISH (United States) and BT Group (United Kingdom), having signed agreements with Nokia to implement its Network as Code platform.

Separately, Ericsson-owned Vonage boasts a community of more than 1 million developers and provides a comprehensive suite of communications APIs that cover voice, video, messaging, verification, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-capable programmable components to help accelerate application development. Similarly, Vonage’s solution has gained momentum, having announced collaboration agreements with Deutsche Telekom (DT) (Germany) and Verizon (United States).

Can the Open Gateway Initiative Outperform Its Predecessors?


Despite the benefits that the Open Gateway API initiative can bring to CSPs, it is still early days in the development of the open network ecosystem, and it remains to be seen if developers are keen to get onboard with the initiative. Other earlier similar initiatives, such as the GSMA Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) and OneAPI Exchange program, did not experience success. One of the key reasons for earlier failures that is commonly cited was the lack of interoperability and importance placed on opening network APIs by large CSPs. As a result, developers could not easily scale their application across multiple networks.

Learning from their earlier failings, the current Open Gateway API initiative is off to a good start, with some of the largest service provider groups in the world having signed up for the program. ABI Research has also identified some other key and pertinent steps that CSPs should take to support a robust developer environment:

  • One-Stop API Developer Portal: CSPs should offer a comprehensive API developer portal that supports easy navigation and seamless user experience. The portal should also offer supplementary resources, such as SDKs, documentation, code samples, analytics, etc., to support quick and efficient development work.
  • Strong Partner Ecosystem: CSPs need to collaborate with and take advantage of the strong established developer ecosystems of Hyperscaler Cloud Platform (HCP) providers.
  • Effective Developer Support: The Open Gateway API platform should support simplified and accelerated customer support by quickly or proactively identifying customer issues and resolving them in an expedient manner. The customer engagement interface should also be made intuitive and accessible.
  • Compliance and Governance: CSPs need to ensure that their Open Gateway API solutions can be flexibly configured to comply with the relevant industry standards, regulations, and/or individual organizational policies.
  • New Business Models: Instead of a once-off purchase or subscription model, CSPs could consider a profit-sharing model with developers, which, in turn, reduces the barriers to entry (i.e., upfront capital costs) for independent developers.

In conclusion, the current Open Gateway API initiative operates in a software-driven and cloud-native environment, which is different from the times of its predecessors, and hence does have real potential for success. To capitalize on this opportunity, CSPs need to create an optimal and conducive environment for developers to build on their network APIs.