Programmable Telecom

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.

Mind Commerce Point of View

Mind Commerce has covered Programmable Telecom for many years. For example, our latest Telecom API research includes:

Some of the opportunity areas that Mind Commerce sees for Programmable Telecoms are discussed in the following sections.

Convergence of UCaaS and CPaaS

In concert with the cloud-based “as a service” model, Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions provide software developers a self-service portal for managing computing and communication needs, including the developing custom apps. Communication Platforms as a Service (CPaaS) represents a Programmable Telecom enabled platform for exposing telecom services through APIs.

Unified Communications (UC) is defined as the unification of voice and messaging services as well as support functions such as presence information, mobility feature/functionality, call control, and other areas. UC as a Service (UCaaS) represents a cloud delivery model for enterprise to optimize communications and collaboration in a scalable and flexible manner, often by way of leveraging CPaaS capabilities and Telecom APIs.

Mind Commerce sees an opportunity for UCaaS and CPaaS convergence, allowing service providers to leverage the most important capabilities from both platforms.

Programmable Telecom Support of WebRTC

Real-time Communications (RTC) represents an integrated communication medium in which all users can exchange information instantly or with negligible latency. RTC of all types is rapidly achieving mass adoption as an enabling technology. A very specific form of RTC, known as Web Real-time Communications (WebRTC), represents a framework, protocols, and API that facilitates real-time interactive voice, video and data in via a Web browser.

As part of the move towards increasingly decentralized Web and telecom infrastructure and services, WebRTC provides a means for various third-parties to develop and implement next generation communications applications with little or no involvement from carriers.

However, leading CSPs realize that WebRTC supported services will usher into the ICT ecosystem a next generation services combination of communications, applications, content, and commerce. CSPs can realize value as the WebRTC ecosystem expands to include many players. CSPs will need help from systems integrators and many different third party providers of data, apps, content, and commerce services.

Programmable Telecom Support of Call Management Services

Call Management ServicesAnother opportunity area that Mind Commerce sees in Programmable Telecom is Robo Call Blocking.

A Robo Call is one in which a calling party originates a call using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) based call-back, which entails a computer calling a normal phone number, detecting answer, and then “hair-pinning” the call to a human being on the calling party side.

These types of call are considered unlawful if the intention is to defraud the called party and/or there is no relationship with the called party or the called party number is on the national Do Not Call Registry.

It is also unlawful and in violation of TCPA rules if the calling party uses a sequential or random dialing process.

These types of calls are both unethical, as it’s disingenuous to present a phone number to the called party that is not the true caller, and unlawful. They are also a big headache for carriers as they get many complaints from customers.

Leading managed communication service providers such as First Orion, Hiya, and Transaction Network Services may leverage Telecom APIs to access identity data contained within carrier databases from carriers to verify the authenticity of calling parties.

Programmable Telecom Support of IoT Mediation

The mediation function in ICT terms pertains to a function that routes or acts on data passing between network elements and network operations. More specifically, mediation involves valuable data collection, aggregation and real-time querying.

There is an emerging need for Internet of Things (IoT) mediation, especially as it pertains to using wireless carrier assets to authenticate IoT devices as being genuine and authorize access to devices and data.

IoT devices will be many and varied, but will have one thing in common in that they will all require identity management, authentication, and authorization for the sake of security, privacy, and access control.

Mediation in IoT is all about mediating access to devices and data. There are many areas that require mediation in this regard including:

  • Platform to Platform
  • Platform to Device
  • Device to Device
  • Device to Cloud
  • Device to Gateway

Entities within the IoT ecosystem will typically have different rights and privileges, which may or may not overlap with each other. It is the role of the Mediation function to rely upon meta-data to determine rights. Mediation meta-data represents those data elements that are utilized for purposes of mediation (requests/responses) between different parties that may request data from one another.

Mediation for IoT includes the AAA (Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting) function, supported by end-user and/or business driven preferences and identity management. Some notable aspects of IoT Mediation include:

  • Authentication: The process where an entity’s identity is authenticated
  • Authorization: The function that determines whether an entity is authorized to perform a given activity
  • Accounting: Rating and billing, clearing and settlement, and other financial related functions
  • Message Routing: Includes authorization of transport (not necessarily the actual transport) of messages from entity A to entity B for a given transaction
  • Protocol Conversion: Includes all necessary format changes to necessity signaling and data interchange

All of these functions, while separate and distinct, may reside physically in the same platform or exist separately and communicate over APIs.

Mind Commerce sees an important role for carriers to facilitate improved IoT security by leveraging Telecom APIs for machine authentication

IoT SecurityWireless carriers have an opportunity to take a leadership position in the area of IoT to the extent that they are in the center of all transactions except those on non-cellular networks. This will be accomplished via Telecom APIs that are exposed by communication service providers to IoT network participants for purposes of verifying identity, access, and privileges.

In addition to carrier mediation for devices and data, there is also an opportunity to mediate and orchestrate services and services providers. As the IoT services model matures, there will be an increasing number of different types of services and almost as many service providers. This will cause a need for Application Service Provider (ASP) to ASP mediation.