Nokia has launched its Network Exposure Platform (NEP), which is supposed to expand and simplify the number of APIs available to operators, their partners, and customer channels.

Nokia says NEP is the first implementation of the GSMA Operator Platform, described as ‘a standard that operators look to for operational guidance and reflects the telco industry’s need for solutions that satisfy the requirements of an array of API models.’

It will support Linux Foundation CAMARA APIs, TM Forum Open APIs, edge-based APIs, and other APIs designed to connect networks to a broader B2B ecosystem. The platform integrates with the kit vendor’s existing Network as Code platform and developer portal, a cloud-based platform set up to connect service provider networks with application developers.

NEP is also supposed to work closely with Nokia Network Exposure Function (NEF), another API-exposure product, again based on 3GPP specifications. NEF provides ‘a process for interfacing with well-defined functions in the core network’ and also enables something called API mashups, meaning a combination of multiple APIs from different core functions into more simplified APIs, which are supposedly easier to integrate.

Existing Nokia NEF customers can upgrade to a combined NEF and NEP solution to simplify their API ecosystem, so goes the acronym-heavy pitch.

“Exposing and simplifying access to 5G and 4G network capabilities for channels connecting developers requires a sustained and collaborative effort by all industry players on a variety of technical fronts,” said Shkumbin Hamiti, Head of Network Monetization Platform, Cloud and Network Services at Nokia. “Nokia NEP is another meaningful part in that work of enabling operators to organize, control, and secure the way their networks integrate into developer ecosystems and platforms; and driving choice and flexibility for creating new use cases and value for the end customers.”

Amy Cameron, Research Director at STL Partners added: “Standardisation of APIs and aggregation across telcos will be crucial to scaling the network API opportunity. Alongside development of their own direct models for API monetisation, in order to drive initial developer engagement and adoption of network APIs, telcos must work towards a more federated approach with their peers and technology partners/aggregators. Nokia NEP can help telcos achieve this with tools to organise, control, and secure the way their networks integrate to developer ecosystems and platforms, ensuring choice and flexibility for customers in creating new network exposure use cases.”

So it’s a little tricky to parse the exact relationship between all these platforms, but essentially this is another mechanism for Nokia to provide access to APIs for operators, with the angle that it is supposed to simplify access and unify with some other levers already in play.

Nokia describes the general potential of APIs as providing ‘access to deep functionality and data within networks; allowing application developers to utilize those network capabilities to build new use cases for their customers.’

Indeed, the process of opening up networks and allowing for new functionality has long been promised as the thing that might provide some new novel use cases for 5G and in the process generate some new revenue opportunities for telcos – many of whom are vocal about the difficulty to recoup the costs of setting up 5G networks based on existing business models.

There’s isn’t a great deal to shout about on that front as yet, but perhaps as the ecosystem evolves with platforms like this, something will emerge that gives the industry that API shaped jolt it’s looking for.

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