UPDATED 14:14 EDT / FEBRUARY 27 2023


GSMA debuts open API toolkit as AWS and Microsoft roll out new carrier offerings

The GSMA Association, the influential telecommunications industry group, is rolling out a new toolkit for creating applications that integrate with multiple carrier networks.

The technology is known as the GSMA Open Gateway and made its debut today at MWC Barcelona 2023. MWC, formerly known as the Mobile World Congress, is the telecommunications sector’s largest trade conference. It’s organized by the GSMA.

The GSMA Open Gateway made its debut alongside new offerings from Amazon Web Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which have both sharpened their focus on the carrier market in recent years. Carriers are increasingly adopting the public cloud as part of their technology modernization initiatives. The new offerings introduced by AWS and Microsoft aim to simplify network operators’ cloud projects.

Interoperable APIs 

The new GSMA Open Gateway will enable carriers to make their networks accessible through application programming interfaces. A carrier could, for example, create an API that allows a navigation app to obtain the location of the smartphone on which it’s installed. APIs created with the Open Gateway will also support a range of other use cases, from streaming music to optimizing wireless connections.

The tentpole feature of the Open Gateway is its focus on interoperability. According to the GSMA, carrier APIs created using the technology are compatible with one another. As a result, developers will have the easy ability to move applications from one carrier’s APIs to those of another without having to make major code changes.

A company that offers an application in multiple regions could use a different carrier’s APIs at each location. According to the GSMA, the ability to mix and match carrier infrastructure will create new opportunities for developers to improve their applications. The Open Gateway also promises to ease development in the process.

The Open Gateway is launching with the backing of 21 carriers worldwide. According to the GSMA, it’s based on an open-source API toolkit called CAMARA that debuted at last year’s MWC. CAMARA is a joint project between the industry group and the Linux Foundation.

“By federating open network APIs and applying the roaming concept of interoperability, mobile operators and cloud services will be truly integrated to enable a new world of opportunity,” said GSMA board Chair José María Álvarez-Pallete López. “Collaboration amongst telecom operators and cloud providers is crucial in this new digital ecosystem.”

New AWS offerings 

The GSMA Open Gateway made its debut at MWC today alongside numerous product announcements from the enterprise technology companies in attendance. Those companies include, among others, the major cloud providers.

AWS said developers using its public cloud will have the ability to use carrier APIs built with the GSMA Open Gateway. Previously, the cloud giant on Sunday introduced two new offerings for carriers that it has developed in collaboration with partners.

The first offering is the fruit of a partnership with Nokia Corp., a company originally known for its phones that now primarily makes carrier equipment. Nokia’s product portfolio includes hardware and software that carriers can use to build RAN infrastructure. RAN, or radio access network, infrastructure, is the industry term for a telecommunications provider’s cell towers and certain supporting equipment.

Nokia sells so-called CNF software for managing RAN equipment. The new joint offering introduced by Nokia and AWS will make it easier for carriers to use that technology. According to the companies, the offering will provide the ability to deploy Nokia’s CNF software on AWS infrastructure deployed on-premise at a carrier’s facilities. 

The AWS infrastructure that powers the offering will feature, among other hardware components, the cloud giant’s custom Graviton3 processors. It’s also set to include a specialized Nokia network chip called the Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNIC. The chip offloads some networking tasks from AWS’ Graviton3 processors to make their computing capacity available for other tasks. 

“The solution will be pretested from both a hardware and software perspective, helping to save CSPs several months of development effort and cost to validate the full stack,” Amir Rao, director of telco product management for EC2 edge services at AWS, detailed in a blog post. “As part of this integration, AWS will validate the mechanical and thermal performance of the Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNIC in its cloud infrastructure to optimize the performance over the temperature ranges of a cell site.”

The second offering that AWS debuted at MWC was developed through a collaboration with Juniper Networks Inc., network monitoring specialist Viavi Solutions Inc. and carrier software maker Aira Technologies Ltd. The offering uses artificial intelligence to optimize the power usage of carriers’ RAN infrastructure. It’s powered by AI software from Aira that runs on Juniper network equipment and was developed using AWS machine learning services.

Microsoft expands its carrier portfolio 

Microsoft, AWS’ top rival in the cloud computing market, is also showcasing new offerings at MWC. One of the most notable additions to the company’s cloud portfolio is a service called Azure Programmable Connectivity. It eases the creation of applications that can run across different carriers’ infrastructure, which is also the goal of the Open Gateway technology that GSMA debuted this morning.

“Azure Programmable Connectivity provides a unified, standard interface across operator networks, enabling developers to create cloud and edge-native applications that interact with the intelligence of networks,” Jason Zander, the executive vice president of strategic missions and technologies at Azure, wrote in a Sunday blog post. “This solution will deliver a consistent, transparent experience across multiple connectivity environments.”

Microsoft detailed the offering alongside two services designed to help carriers more easily adopt the public cloud. The first service, Azure Communications Gateway, is a cloud-based tool that allows carriers to integrate their telephone networks with the Teams Phone calling feature in Microsoft Teams. The other new offering, Azure Operator Voicemail, helps carriers provide voicemail features to users.

Microsoft also debuted two other cloud tools that focus on easing infrastructure management tasks.

The first, Azure Operator Insights, can collect diagnostics data from a carrier’s network for monitoring purposes. It’s designed to work with carrier networks that include components from several different suppliers. By analyzing the diagnostics data it collects, Azure Operator Insights can detect potential malfunctions or user experience issues.

The service is rolling outside alongside an administration tool called Operator Service Manager. According to Microsoft, it enables carriers to centrally manage both their on-premises and cloud infrastructure. 

“Azure Operator Service Manager provides seamless management of complex services deployed across hybrid cloud sites,” Zander wrote. “Combined with consolidated management across Azure cloud and edge platforms, Operator Service Manager helps to accelerate operator service deployment.”

Photo: GSMA Association

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