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UK operator BT is teaming up with Nokia to open up its network APIs to third parties and thereby help to claw back some of its 5G investments.
December 11, 2023
BT has become the second named telco customer to use Nokia's Network as Code platform with developer portal. Coupled with its cloud native network, launched last year, the deal will provide tools for developers – software development kits and so forth – to boost their offerings to their customers, while making some money for BT in the process.
Indeed, Nokia and BT are making no secret of the fact that they see this as a 5G monetisation opportunity. That makes a lot of sense, from Nokia's perspective particularly, since operators the world over are fighting the same battle on 5G returns. Those operators are all prospective customers for Nokia's Network as Code platform.
It has already signed up Dish Network, essentially announcing the US operator as its launch customer when it unveiled the platform in September. The pair signed an MoU to work together in this area, with Nokia working towards commercial availability in December. It did not comment on commercial launch in the BT release, and in fact is still talking about what the platform 'will' enable when BT is using it, but we're presuming it's there or thereabouts.
Nokia reiterated that the Network as Code platform is based on a revenue share model between itself, developers and telecoms operators, although naturally we don't have any more specific information than that.
The vendor also did not give much away in terms of what BT will actually use the platform for. When it announced its deal with Dish it talked up advanced network traffic controls, quality of service management, and access to user information like location and device status. But the BT announcement is more generic: the tools will enable developers to write new use cases "and create new value for EE customers," it says.
"5G-era networks are fundamentally software-based and rich in capabilities – such as improving network quality on demand – that can really make a difference to enterprises and consumers in ways that were not possible years ago," said Reza Rahnama, Managing Director, Mobile Networks at BT Group. "We are excited to work with Nokia and its new platform to help us better tap into those capabilities that we have been aggressively building into our 5G network," he added, without actually saying much at all.
BT might not want to discuss exactly what it plans to do with the Network as Code platform, but the headline 5G monetisation message is coming through loud and clear.
"Through its strong API Developer portal work, BT Group has been an important driver of helping the industry understand the multiple benefits of opening telecom networks to application developers. This agreement will enhance our joint work with developers and create new opportunities for extracting value from BT Group's network assets," said Shkumbin Hamiti, Head of Network Monetization Platform, Cloud and Network Services, at Nokia.
Of course, operators have been talking a good game on opening up APIs for years, but with little action. Until earlier this year, that is, when the GSMA unveiled its Open Gateway initiative, with broad backing from the operator community, BT was not among the initial 21 operator participants, but has since signed up to the project. Nokia is also involved.
That, and announcements like this from Nokia and BT, should push the needle further.
In addition, Nokia potentially has more operator announcements in the pipeline. According to Light Reading, when the vendor unveiled the platform in September, Hamiti shared that Dish was one of half a dozen telecoms operators preparing to use it. It's a fairly safe bet that BT was one of the nameless telcos back then. Perhaps the others will stick their heads above the parapet in the coming months.
Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.
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