What’s going on with Open 5G Application Programming Interfaces?

Open 5G Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) were the talk of the town at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. But where do things stand today as we approach the halfway point in the year?

The GSMA launched the Open Gateway initiative at the show, rallying 21 network operators, including AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom and many more, around the idea.

APIs enable third-party applications to use the 5G network. Operators, however, need to lay bare – or open – these network APIs and make them simple for developers to work with. The Open Gateway initiative has been formed to create a framework of universal 5G APIs so that developers can use standard APIs so they can create applications that can be used 5G networks across the world.

That’s the plan, but where are we at now?

Thus far, the group has issued eight standardized APIs under the Linux Foundation's CAMARA open source project. These cover SIM Swap, Quality on Demand, Device Status (Connected or Roaming Status), Number Verification, Edge Site Selection and Routing, Number Verification (SMS 2FA), Carrier Billing – Check Out and Device Location (Verify Location). Additional releases are planned for the remainder of 2023.

And yet, Leonard Lee, executive analyst at neXt Curve told Silverlinings that it is probably still a bit premature for the open 5G APIs. “It is still early in the design phase, in my observation having attended a couple of CAMARA working group meetings,” he said.

“There are a good number of APIs defined already and a reference architecture of how things will work largely based on TM Forum standards,” Lee told us. “The difficult part is institutionalizing use of these APIs by vendors and developers, which has not happened yet,” he added.

“It will take operators to modernize their networks and mature their deployments so that these APIs expose minimally differentiated network capabilities for developers to tap into,” Lee explained.  “Without harmonization of common and compelling network capabilities across operator networks the APIs will be of little value or developer interest." 

“In short, they have a long way to go,” Lee concluded. “APIs are not the answer to the problem. They are just interfaces."

So, there you go, there's still a way to go with open 5G APIs.