AT&T will offer an accelerator program to developers as it works to flesh out its network API strategy. The company also said it will work with Ericsson's Vonage to make the APIs broadly available.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

February 20, 2024

5 Min Read
Handshake over global network link connection illustration
(Source: Vittaya Sinlapasart/Alamy Stock Photo)

AT&T is launching a new accelerator program for developers to refine and promote its network application programming interfaces (APIs). In conjunction with that effort, the company said it would make some of the APIs available through Ericsson's Vonage platform.

AT&T's announcements follow similar moves by rivals Verizon and T-Mobile.

Taken together, the developments indicate an industrywide push to develop and monetize network-level APIs. The interfaces would allow developers to build services that make use of technologies that are only available inside a wireless network, such as push-to-talk communications, IoT device management or SIM card activation.

AT&T officials hinted that the company plans to release additional network-level APIs in the future.

"Apps developed with integrated network capabilities represent a substantial point of differentiation. In fact, we think this technology can create entirely new applications and new ways of capturing the attention of your customers," wrote Stephanie Ormston, AT&T's AVP Technology – Digital Services Integration, on the company's website. "How might hardware- or cloud-based gaming, streaming, and content creation be impacted by network capabilities that make latency a thing of the past? How might gamers respond? How might game studios?"

Resurrecting the developer program

This is not AT&T's first attempt to court developers. In 2010 the company touted a new website for its developer program intended for "developers who are looking to make compelling applications, and help get those apps to market."

AT&T's early efforts focused on developers building feature phone and smartphone applications. But as the smartphone industry matured, and iOS and Android took off, AT&T began to shift its developer efforts to other sectors of its business. For example, in 2016 the company's annual Developer Summit attracted 1,400 attendees as AT&T focused on areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), connected cars and smart cities.

Later, however, AT&T's developer program receded into the background as the company built out its initial 5G network and kicked off efforts to replace its copper DSL network with fiber. AT&T also briefly toyed with a role in the media industry through its purchase and subsequent divestiture of WarnerMedia.

APIs for now and later

Now, AT&T is working to refine its network API story. On its new developer website, the company lists a handful of network-level APIs that are either available today or planned for release later, including: 

  • Network insights will provide metrics "related to network performance for a device;"

  • Mobility threat and anomaly detection will "use machine learning to Identify threats and unusual activity observed by a device;"

  • And number verification will enable "seamless authentication of the mobile device by the mobile network."

Some of those APIs will be specific to AT&T, such as anomaly detection. But others, like number verification, will adhere to specifications from the CAMARA Project, a Linux Foundation initiative set up to standardize network APIs. CAMARA is promoted by the GSMA's Open Gateway initiative.

However, other AT&T network APIs stem from the operator's legacy developer efforts. For example, its video optimizer is a "cross-platform diagnostics tool to help you analyze your app performance," according to the developer website. Documentation for that tool was released in 2020, well before the formation of the CAMARA Project.

Ormston, the AT&T executive, told Light Reading the company plans to remain flexible in how it would to make money from its APIs. She said the company would consider a variety of business models.

Selling APIs

Ericsson's Vonage has emerged as a leading aggregator of operators' network APIs.

"By combining our global communications and network APIs with AT&T's mobile application development solutions, we will be able to together deliver innovative new services and capabilities to enterprises and end users, while accelerating innovation for the network," said Savinay Berry, EVP of Product and Engineering at Vonage, in a release. "We expect the demand for new services, innovations and value creation enabled by 5G to grow significantly over the coming years." 

However, AT&T said it would make its APIs available through other platforms as well.

AT&T joins Verizon and Deutsche Telekom – Europe's biggest operator – in using Ericsson's Vonage API platform for network services.

According to Ericsson, telecom research and consulting firm STL Partners predicts that the revenue opportunity created by mobile network APIs will grow to over $20 billion globally by 2028.

However, Ericsson has been struggling to get Vonage off the ground. The company closed its Vonage acquisition in 2022 and a year later it took a $3 billion impairment on the purchase. In its most recent quarterly report, Ericsson disclosed that Vonage's sales rose just 2% year-over-year, amounting to around $390 million.

Last year, Ericsson officials said Vonage's API sales will not be "meaningful" until 2025.

And even that target might be overly optimistic. Twilio, which has long aggregated network-level APIs for text messaging and other services, watched its growth slow to a halt in 2023. Its CEO has since exited the business, and Twilio is now embarking "an extensive operational review" of its customer data (CDP) business, according to TechCrunch.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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