Unlocking the treasure trove of mobile carrier services and data for new mobile apps is getting a lot easier. And now, it's getting easier for the carriers themselves to "mash-up" those internal resources with external Web-accessible services from Facebook and others.
Aepona announced this week at Mobile World Congress 2012, an additional feature to its carrier software suite. The new capability, dubbed Agile Service Enablement (ASE), lets carriers blend together internal services such as call control, location, messaging and many others, with the growing array of Web service APIs, from Facebook and Google.
The company also announced the Services Aggregation and Merchandizing Platform, which lets carriers bundle a variety of Web and other hosted services, with core carrier network services, and package them for a variety of partners and customers.
In a related announcement, the Small Cell Forum, a group of vendors and operators deploying small cells for mobile coverage, says it picked Aepona to create a reference design for the SCF's recently announced Developer API Initiative. That program will create and expose APIs that developers can use to create "context-aware" services for mobile users entering and passing through the networks.
At MWC this week, Aepona demonstrated marrying the Google Contacts API with a carrier-based SMS messaging service. A carrier, or third-party developer, can used drag-and-drop techniques to generate the system logic, in this case a set of policies and authorizations. The result is a quickly created service that allows one-to-many SMS messages to groups defined in Google Contacts.
"In the past, the carrier's own IT group or an outside systems integrator would have to write a lot of code to represent the internal service as an API and then convert it to right languages, and apply policies," says Michale Crossey, vice president of marketing for Belfast, Northern Ireland-based Aepona.
All that is hugely simplified by ASE.
The new feature was developed with several of Aepona's top carrier customers, who have been using its original 2007 suite, Universal Service Platform now renamed, significantly enough, the API Monetization Platform or AMP. The name change reflects what's at stake for the carriers: to avoid being relegated to the commodity role of a connectivity creator, they have to be able to create and participate in the IP-based services, content, and data that are running over their wireless broadband links and which now benefit their providers, labeled "over the top" or OTTs for short, but rarely the carriers.
In a talk at MWC, Rene Obermann, chief of Deutsche Telekom, told his audience that an executive of one OTT told him, "You make the investments [in the network], and I take the profits." Obermann looked rueful as he added, "I didn't like that very much."
With AMP, Aepona drastically reduces the complexity and drudgery of creating APIs to core carrier services, such as call control, net control, billing, location and messaging, all core network capabilities that in the past could only laboriously be opened to outsiders, says Aepon's Crossey. One customer told him that traditionally it took up to nine months to bring onboard an outside partner and enable access to such carrier services.
AMP streamlines this by orders of magnitude. "We offer out-of-the-box Web services that developers can immediately start to use as they do Google APIs," Crossey says. "We shrink-wrapped a lot of the functions they normally would have to build themselves."
AMP includes a "partner portal" for handling the onboarding process with outside developers, a policy engine, security, and a payments and settlement engine that supports a variety of business models for charging fees or sharing revenue.
The new Agile Service Enablement feature will be added to this mix. Beta testing will start in the second quarter, and early deployments not long after that.
The second announcement, of Services Aggregation and Merchandizing, lets carriers efficiently combine and broker a collection of discrete cloud services into a new service offering, then provision the service, including subscriptions, and handle merchandizing on behalf of the customer. "Carriers can leverage these new cloud services and add value by integrating with own internal core network features," Crossey says.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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