Telcos’ Open API use outpaces vendor supply, reveals TM Forum survey


Survey of telcos and vendors shows high intent to use TM Forum’s Open APIs for digital transformation, but vendor implementations lag, forcing telcos to take DIY approach

TM Forum, the industry association driving digital transformation through collaboration, today announced the results of ongoing surveys of TM Forum Open API adoption by communications service providers (CSPs) and software product vendors.

While the survey results confirm that both sides of the industry are making progress in using Open APIs, they also reveal vendors’ native Open API support lags behind demand from CSPs. As a result, some leading CSPs are taking a DIY approach to implementing Open APIs.

The goal of TM Forum’s Open APIs is to enable zero-touch interoperability and zero-touch partnering, helping service providers improve agility and reduce IT integration and maintenance costs. TM Forum’s suite of over 50 REST-based Open APIs enables end-to-end seamless connectivity, interoperability and portability across complex ecosystem-based services.

To date, 53 of the world’s leading CSPs and technology ecosystem participants have signed TM Forum’s Open API Manifesto, publicly endorsing TM Forum’s suite of Open APIs.

Open API adoption survey results

Six months ago, due to requests from service providers for a tool to compare vendors’ use of Forum’s Open APIs, the Forum launched two Open API Adoption Assessment Report surveys – one for vendors and one for CSPs.

Today, the Forum is releasing a report based on the results of voluntary participation in the surveys in order to give the industry a snapshot of Open API adoption and progress toward zero-touch interoperability and partnering.

The results of this quarter’s survey show that the average maturity level of Open APIs is 26 percent higher for CSPs than for vendors. This gap is indicative of CSPs undertaking significant DIY activity.

Lester Thomas, Chief IT Systems Architect, Vodafone Group, confirmed this trend. “The majority of our Open API implementations to date have been wrapping our product vendors’ legacy APIs. This is partly driven from the fact that we are building a digital experience layer across all our markets while we are modernizing the back-end vendor systems-of-record at a slower rate,” he said. “We have started to see native TM Forum Open API implementations from some of our vendors, and all of the new BSS implementations we have done over the last two years have included native support for TM Forum’s Open APIs.”

Thomas also noted the growing demand for zero-touch partnering Open APIs outside the telecom sector. “In the enterprise space, we are also seeing some enterprise customers mandating the use of Open APIs as part of their RFPs, and we are starting to see inter-operator use-cases based on Open APIs as well,” he added.

Open API hurdles

Comparatively, the average intent of vendors to support Open APIs is 20 percent higher than their average maturity scores, noted George Glass, Vice President of Architecture and APIs, TM Forum. “In analyzing the results, it’s clear that most vendors show good intent but relatively low maturity,” he said. “CSP intent is higher than vendor maturity which means that demand outstrips supply and leads CSPs to take matters into their own hands when transforming legacy IT. Vendors need to step up their adoption to remain relevant, especially as operators move into the enterprise market.”

Open Digital Architecture and Open APIs Training & Advisory Services

TM Forum has also announced that 13 top telcos and vendors are supporting a new Open API & Open Digital Architecture Manifesto focused on enabling a plug-and-play IT and business architecture. These 13 companies – Accenture, Axiata, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, CSG, Etiya, Globe Telecom, MyRepublic, Openet, Orange, SigScale and Vodafone – agreed to endorse and drive the industry towards a radical uplift in IT agility and software architecture, and stand behind zero-touch interoperability and partnering.

In addition to the Open API Adoption Assessment Report, Open API Manifesto, Open API & Open Digital Architecture Manifesto, the Forum supports Open API use through several other efforts. By completing Open API Conformance certification, companies can demonstrate that they have successfully implemented Open APIs so that partners, clients and suppliers can validate conformance.

The Forum also supports companies undergoing digital transformation through training courses and advisory services focused on Open Digital Architecture and Open APIs.