DTW23-Ignite: Vodafone CTO Scott Petty sees value in the aggregation layer
Scott Petty, Vodafone Group’s CTO, believes an open architecture and standard APIs are key to unlocking new sources of revenue as the company and other communications service providers (CSPs) deploy 5G standalone (SA). “We need an architecture that enables us to attract application developers…and builds the aggregation layer that we need to start to hide the complexity of the infrastructure that sits below,” he said during a session on the future of networks here at DTW-Ignite.
Petty acknowledged that Vodafone and other operators are not well positioned to do application development themselves because they can’t scale. Even for external application developers, telcos’ markets are limited by competition.
“In most cases there are four [mobile] operators per market,” said Petty. “If you’re an application provider, and you create a great service … a really fantastic experience for our consumer customer, that’s brilliant. But the UK market share is only 20%... Who’s going to invest in applications when it’s such a small percentage of the market?”
Telcos need to be able to partner to provide broader market potential for application providers that are interested in 5G SA’s advanced capabilities, Petty said. That makes implementing a standard architecture like the TM Forum Open Digital Architecture critical.
“I really believe taking the ODA architecture approach...we can play in that aggregation layer,” he said. “We can work together with partners and other telcos, and we can hide that complexity sits below by exposing APIs.”
Petty pointed to a Catalyst project that Vodafone and several other large operators are championing called 5G enablement through industry-standardized APIs. It has been looking at how APIs from TM Forum and CAMARA (a joint effort between GSMA and the Linux Foundation) can work together to provide quality-on-demand (QoD), device location and payment capabilities for applications such as videoconferencing and gaming. The project has demonstrated “boostable” QoD, which is accessed through a CAMARA network API that uses TM Forum Open APIs to manage and operate the service. The vision is to define a unified API specification across TM Forum and CAMARA to enable 5G scenarios that enhance customer experience and drive monetization capabilities.
“I really believe this is the future, taking an ODA API – a digital and IT API – and using that to hold the payload for a network API, in this case a CAMARA API” Petty said. “I’m really excited about the opportunities it will create for us to bring these two layers together to unlock new services. There are awesome opportunities for us in 5G SA but only if we achieve this.”
Petty concluded with a warning: “If we do this country by country and operator by operator and we don’t build the abstraction layer, somebody else will build it.” He pointed to the way messaging app providers have decimated telcos’ SMS messaging businesses. “The same thing will happen in SA, unless we can step up,” Petty said.