Open Gateway APIs arrive in Spain, as Vodafone and e& tie on cross-border VoLTE and Verizon gears up on open RAN.
A week in telecoms: Open Gateway API services launch in Spain
Three Spanish operators launch two Open Gateway network APIs
The GSMA Open Gateway initiative, announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023, made further advancements this week as three Spanish mobile network operators launched two network API services focused on improving digital security: Number Verification and SIM Swap.
Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone Spain said in a joint release that the APIs, which will be launched at the upcoming MWC 2024, will allow developer teams and partners to create new intelligent layers of customer authentication, verification, and security within mobile phone networks.
In November last year, TM Forum members began developing new “Operate APIs” to complement CAMARA network APIs, with a goal of providing a standardized way for mobile operators to make the interfaces commercially available to aggregators and developers. TM Forum members from Vodafone, Orange, Telefónica, and other companies are working within TM Forum with CAMARA members (in some cases the same people from the companies are working in both groups) to develop Operate APIs in phases.
Telefónica launched its first Open Gateway network APIs in Brazil. In December, the operator’s Vivo unit, along with America Móvil-owned Claro and TIM Brasil, unveiled three network APIs — Number Verify, SIM Swap and Device Location — that focus on combating digital fraud for financial institutions.
In November, Sri Lanka’s four mobile operators, Bharti Airtel Lanka (Private) Limited, Dialog Axiata, Hutchison Telecommunications Lanka, and SLT-Mobitel, launched three APIs. In addition, Deutsche Telekom (DT) is now offering network APIs under the brand “MagentaBusiness API,” in collaboration with Ericsson-owned Vonage.
Launched with initial support from 21 operators, GSMA Open Gateway aims to drive universal adoption of APIs designed to expose network capabilities, without the need for end-user developers to understand telecoms network technology or terminology. The APIs are being developed in the CAMARA open-source project in association with Linux Foundation, launched in February 2022.
Nik Willetts, CEO of TM Forum, said at the time that industry-agreed, open-source APIs “are one of five key elements we need to get right as an industry to reignite growth,” and that the GSMA initiative “directly supports our mission to get the industry back to growth.”
According to the GSMA, 39 operator groups now support the initiative.
Vodafone and e& team on cross-border VoLTE
Vodafone and e& have joined forces to provide other operators with fully managed voice solutions to support their international voice traffic requirements and growth plans, as well as help meet the growing demand for voice over 4G/5G (VoLTE) services.
Vodafone and e& aim to provide operators with a managed voice service worldwide. They claim that operators sourcing combined services from Vodafone and e& can be assured of predictable costs, optimised inbound revenues, streamlined regulatory compliance, enhanced fraud protection, and integration of services through a cloud-based architecture.
Ninian Wilson, CEO of Vodafone Procurement and Connectivity, said: “Managing cross-border voice is increasingly complex due to new regulations, providing protection against international scams, and the need to migrate to 5G services. Operators are seeking trusted partners to navigate these changes, while growing their businesses. Vodafone’s strategic partnership with e& offers them a single point of contact and a dependable service globally during this transition to support them in managing changing business complexities.”
According to the GSMA, VoLTE adoption is forecast to increase to over 70% of global mobile connections by 2030, fuelled by operators switching off legacy networks in favour of 5G.
The announcement builds on a broad go-to-market agreement Vodafone and e& unveiled in October. Meanwhile, e& is now the largest shareholder in Vodafone with a 14.6% stake.
Verizon deploys 170,000 O-RAN capable sites
Verizon gave the open radio access network (RAN) market a shot in the arm this week with the announcement that it has now deployed over 130,000 O-RAN capable radios in its commercial RAN.
The announcement comes weeks after AT&T announced a five-year, $14 billion agreement with vendor Ericsson for RAN equipment supporting O-RAN standards. In addition, Vodafone has just kicked off its previously announced tender for 170,000 RAN sites based on O-RAN.
According to Verizon, it has been building up to an open RAN network since early in 2019, when the US operator announced the virtualization of the core network with a cloud-native, containerized architecture. In 2020, it announced the achievement of fully virtualized baseband functions and said it has been deploying that solution throughout the network.
Verizon noted that its V-RAN efforts run in parallel with and overlap open RAN efforts, describing it as an “evolution of the virtual network architecture that will offer up a new set of benefits, technical advancements, and innovation on the radio access networks that serve wireless customers across the nation.”
Meanwhile, Dell’Oro said open RAN revenues are on track to have declined in 2023. However, the analyst group said the long-term forecast remains positive, with open RAN set to account for 20% to 30% of worldwide RAN revenues by 2028, up from 7% to 10% in 2024.
Stefan Pongratz, Vice President and Analyst at Dell’Oro, also observed that more questions are being asked about the rationale behind open RAN.
“The fundamental assumptions shaping the role Open RAN will play in this RAN journey have not changed. Over time, operators will incorporate more virtualization, intelligence, automation, and O-RAN into their RAN roadmaps. However, the business case for multi-vendor RAN is less compelling,” Pongratz said.
SKT benefits from AI focus as Vodafone and Telenor continue to transform
This week brought a smattering of quarterly and full-year results, depending on the fiscal year. Vodafone Group kicked things off with a trading update on Monday, and confirmed that it remains in talks over a potential deal for its operations in Italy.
Vodafone reported fiscal third-quarter service revenue growth of 4.7%, the same as the previous quarter. A smaller decline in Spain helped offset the weaker contribution from Germany, where growth slowed from 1.1% to 0.3%.
Vodafone Business saw service revenue growth accelerate to 5.0% from 4.3% in the previous quarter, which it said was driven by strong performance in digital services.
Margherita Della Valle, CEO of Vodafone Group, observed that the operator maintained good service revenue momentum across both Europe and Africa.
“We’ve made good strategic progress in the first nine months of the year, with improving customer satisfaction and three consecutive quarters of service revenue growth in Europe. Our announced transactions in the UK and Spain are progressing well, and we are in active discussions in Italy. We’ve also begun strategic partnerships with Microsoft and Accenture to fast-track our transformation,” she said.
Also in Europe, Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke described 2023 as a solid year, with a 4% rise in organic service revenue. The group also completed “quite a comprehensive list of strategic M&A transactions,” he said.
“We divested a 30% stake in our passive fiber network to KKR, closed the largest telecom merger ever in Southeast Asia, locked in strong returns from selling Working Group Two [to Cisco], let go of our satellite business, and announced a sale of Telenor Pakistan,” Brekke said.
In Asia, meanwhile, SK Telekom (SKT) is clearly reaping the rewards of its focus on AI. According to the Korea Times, the operator reported a net profit of 1.15 trillion won ($859.9 million) for 2023, up 20.9% from a year earlier. Sales rose 1.8% to 17.6 trillion won.
In 2024, SKT said it aims to create “tangible results” in AI business areas including AI data center, AI semiconductor, telco-specific LLM, and X Caliber.
BT ties with Ericsson, Qualcomm on 5G network slicing trial
BT hailed a recent trial of 5G network slicing capabilities as evidence of the potential for virtual 5G networks to support “new and differentiated services for consumers and enterprise users.”
The trial took place at BT’s research site in Adastral Park, using a device with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy Mobile Platform and a 5G standalone (5G SA) network provided by Ericsson.
BT said the trial established network slices for gaming, enterprise and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and showed how, “by allocating a portion of the 5G SA network to provide dynamic partitions for specific use-cases, optimal performance can be maintained for bandwidth-heavy activities including mobile gaming and video conferencing even during peak times.”
BT is far from alone in espousing the ability of network slicing to support new digital service offerings.
Last year, for example, Telenor worked with a total of eleven vendors to develop an end-to-end automated deployment solution of 5G SA core network slices. The goal was to demonstrate how Telenor’s enterprise customers can order 5G network services dynamically and bring on board their own application services using standard APIs.
Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer, BT Group, observed that network slicing “will enable us to deliver new and improved capabilities for customers in the 5G SA era.
He added: “As we work diligently towards the launch of our own 5G SA network, today’s successful demonstration of how slicing enables us to differentiate quality of service to guarantee performance for different segments is a significant milestone, and illustrative of the new services that will be enabled by 5G SA.”
The operator noted that the trial also validated the potential of network slicing for BT’s business customers. It said enterprise and eMBB slices, configured via Equipment Route Selection Policy (URSP) rules, enable a device to connect to multiple network slices simultaneously depending on the application.