What is Programmable Telecom?

The term Programmable Telecom refers to technologies and solutions that enable independent development of applications which leverage carrier data.

Electronics are considered “programmable” if they can take action based upon instructions from software. This software may be localized, remote, or a combination of both. In the case of remote software, communications may be peer-to-peer or occur in a client/server arrangement. In addition to taking local actions, electronics acting upon programs may affect non-local resources by providing actionable data to a server and/or device.

The term “Programmable Telecom” is increasingly used within the converged Web/Telecom space. It refers to the technology and tools used to provide value-added applications with little or no carrier involvement.

Legacy telecommunications have historically relied upon either vendor-specific systems and/or monolithic programming to enable the transmission of signals, messages, words, images, and sounds. In contrast, Programmable Telecom resources facilitate independent application development via a flexible and open software development environment.

What is Programmable Telecom?

The term “Programmable Telecom” refers to technologies and solutions that enable independent development of applications which leverage carrier data.

Electronics are considered “programmable” if they can take action based upon instructions from software. This software may be localized, remote, or a combination of both. In the case of remote software, communications may be peer-to-peer or occur in a client/server arrangement. In addition to taking local actions, electronics acting upon programs may affect non-local resources by providing actionable data to a server and/or device.

The term “Programmable Telecom” is increasingly used within the converged Web/Telecom space. It refers to the technology and tools used to provide value-added applications with little or no carrier involvement.

Legacy telecommunications have historically relied upon either vendor-specific systems and/or monolithic programming to enable the transmission of signals, messages, words, images, and sounds. In contrast, Programmable Telecom resources facilitate independent application development via a flexible and open software development environment.

Current Trends and Market Outlook

Rather than simply acting as a stand-alone product or service, communications capabilities are rapidly becoming a feature built into a wide range of apps, experiences, and services. Programmable Telecom technologies enable businesses to communication-enable applications and services.

Within the last ten years, leading communication service providers have opened up their networks and databases to software developers and third-party companies by way of various technologies, tools, and techniques including Application Programming Interface (API), Graphical User Interface (GUI), Open Source Telecom Software, and Software Development Kits (SDK).

Telecom Application Development

Telecom Application DevelopmentTelecom Application Developers (TAD) leverage access to carrier resources to create applications, most of which become available to end-users simply by downloading a client onto their smartphone.

Telecom API resources provide the means of accessing data for a variety of communications-enabled applications such as advanced messaging services, location-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and more.

See Mind Commerce Applications and Services

An entire industry ecosystem has developed to support Telecom API enabled applications. Many companies in this ecosystem operate in a cloud services model; hence the term “Cloud Communications” is often associated with Programmable Telecom.

See Mind Commerce Computing reports for more information about cloud computing

One of the better resources for software developers is the annual TAD Summit, an industry resource, and networking event supported by companies in the Telecom API ecosystem for the benefit of telecom application developers. Mind Commerce covers the companies involved in this ecosystem in its series of reports focused on communications-enabled applications.

Carrier Support of Telecom APIs

Mobile network operators have been motivated to leverage Programmable Telecom projects and initiatives to realize a few very important benefits including: Internal cost reduction, Customer churn reduction, Higher subscriber data usage, and Monetization of carrier data.

OTT Providers Leverage Telecom APIs

Third-parties leveraging Programmable Telecom include independent Telecom Application Developers as well as the likes of Google, Facebook, and various other companies that operate in an Over-the-Top (OTT) business model, meaning they require little or no involvement from the host carrier. OTT companies only require carrier data.

Carriers provide data to OTT providers via Programmable Telecom in a Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) model, which involves the aggregation, management, and disaggregation of a certain data sets, and allowing controlled access to the data over an API. The data itself can be found in a variety of places including legacy/operational systems, which may reside in the Cloud, and/or on-premise.

Carrier Opportunities to Provide VAS Apps

One area in which the carriers have not been successful is leveraging Programmable Telecom to develop their own Value Added Service (VAS) applications. Instead, the network operators largely rely upon third-parties to develop VAS apps, creating a situation in which the former realizes increased data usage, but the latter enjoys new business revenue, and in some cases, cannibalizing services from the carrier.

A general lack of carrier initiated/controlled VAS apps has been a disappointment as a missed opportunity. One example of a potential carrier VAS app could be the use of telephony presence, location, and identity information mashed-up with credit bureau information. A mash-up of this type could be used to prevent identity theft and also to significantly reduce fraud scores for purchases, which is especially important for big ticket item purchases.

With the marginalization of bearer services, there will be a growing dependence on VAS apps for initially top line revenue growth (as data growth tapers off and margins are squeezed), and later for margin growth as bearer services become a cost-plus commodity.

VAS applications must add value, and not cannibalize existing/core services, unless clearly favorable. In the case of VoIP, incumbent operators must embrace the fact that bearer services are becoming commoditized, and therefore margins are going down, causing the carriers to invest in other areas. The areas in which they must invest include integration of VAS with core services.

While Mind Commerce has long been an advocate of carrier-driven VAS apps as a key benefit, network operators have largely missed this opportunity for the consumer market. However, the general outlook for Programmable Telecom enabled delivery of Business to Business services remains a great opportunity for carriers.