Vodafone, Jio, Axiata get ball rolling on TMF's ODA program
The fact that a total of three telecoms operators are now compliant with the TM Forum's Open Digital Architecture (ODA), caused a small ripple of excitement at last week's Digital Transformation World (DTW) in Copenhagen and allowed TM Forum CEO Nik Willetts to present each of the three with a special ODA-compliance award.
The operators in question are Axiata, Reliance Jio and Vodafone. According to a TM Forum release, they have been confirmed as the first communications service providers (CSPs) in the world to achieve the new Running on ODA status after having "demonstrated their expertise and ongoing commitment to the development, use and conformance to ODA."
James Crawshaw, principal analyst, telco IT & operation at Light Reading sister company Omdia, who has been tracking ODA developments since the program was launched in 2018, noted that Vodafone has been a long-standing champion of ODA, "so it is no surprise that they are 'running on ODA'."
"Reliance Jio has been a TM Forum member since 2010 and has been a big fan of their Open APIs, not only demanding conformance from its suppliers (as many other CSPs do), but also implementing these open APIs in its own, proprietary systems," he said. "Axiata has been an active TM Forum member for some time so not a surprise to see them adopting ODA too."
Looking ahead, Crawshaw said he expects the trio to be "joined soon by other early champions of ODA such as Orange and Telenor." However, he suggested that for ODA to have further momentum, "it would be good to see AT&T sign up."
AT&T is a signatory to the TM Forum Open API manifesto, but unlike rival Verizon has not yet also signed up to the ODA.
According to an Omdia report published in December 2020, ODA essentially brings a standard approach to telco IT architecture, enabling suppliers to concentrate their efforts on producing one solution that meets the needs of multiple customers and integrates easily with third-party systems.
The key benefits of the program for CSPs, Omdia says, are easier integration of software components, reduced dependence on incumbent suppliers, and lower barriers to entry for new suppliers.
The ODA crowd
The current 'Running on ODA' cohort is a small but reasonably diverse group in terms of location and background, although all three have digital and agile aspirations.
The youngest of the trio, India-based Jio has just turned six, as noted during DTW by Anish Shah, president and COO of Jio Platforms. The disruptive operator has certainly made its mark in the few years it has been active on the market, and now appears to be readying itself for an assault on the telco vendor landscape.
Vodafone, meanwhile, has suffered from Jio's competitive play in India and is now looking for solutions to save its operations in that market. At DTW, the group sought to underscore its growing digital credentials, with a reminder of last year's announcement that it plans to hire 7,000 software engineers, for example.
During his presentation at DTW, Ulrich Irnich, CIO at Vodafone Germany also highlighted the need to move fast as well as build applications that will work across all markets.
Here, he gave an example of how an open digital architecture enabled a loyalty program that was developed in Turkey to be deployed in Germany, Spain and now Italy. A key hurdle, he said, is "getting people into the mindset that it's better to reuse things and look for new innovation," instead of trying to stick with what is already there.
Irnich also heads up the so-called "Modernization Garage" at Vodafone, which means his role extends beyond Germany and covers wider group digital and IT transformation functions. That in turn appears to align with Vodafone's creation last year of European-wide network and digital teams.
As Irnich noted on LinkedIn, the "time of big bang transformations are over and we are in a continuous modernization journey. An open collaboration between all parties is needed and open APIs means really open." Vodafone has so far released more than 260 Open APIs.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading