Enabling a Platform Business Model to Monetize Operator Network Capabilities
Digitalization is on every telco's strategy book, but to actually do it is not easy. To start with, successful digitalization can only be achieved with strong R&D capabilities, from backend layer technology through middle-layer platform to upper-layer operation. Vendor support and partnership is critical to both help kick-start the process and to save time and investment for telcos that are determined to embark on the journey.
Huawei, with its strong in-house technologies and its rich experience in supporting telcos from all markets, is in an ideal position to provide such an acceleration that many telcos badly need. One of the most fruitful partnerships Huawei has played an instrumental role in is the collaboration with Axiata, one of the leading telecommunications groups in Asia. What Axiata has achieved since it started the digitalization process, and its key digital asset, Apigate's role in it, could serve as a blueprint for other mobile operators that have ambitions beyond connectivity provision.
Huawei is an important partner to bring to reality Axiata's vision set by the President & Group CEO of Axiata Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim "to be a New Generation Digital Champion by 2020," including building a so-called "unicorn" out of Apigate, taking it to the billion-dollar club.
Benefits for all parties
In order to become the anchor of a digital ecosystem, Axiata has recognized that it could not do everything by itself. Instead it decided it should play an enabler's role and rally the broader application and content developer communities, and other industry participants, around it. To achieve this, Axiata created Axiata Digital, a suite of digital assets including the open API platform Apigate, which was instrumental in opening up, managing and monetising their network services through APIs.
Without an open API platform, telcos would need to operate and manage specialized billing systems for different kinds of services through different layers of integration and communication set up in the network (API management, billing gateways, interconnectivity, etc.). These would not only make operations costlier, but also increase the complexity of the system and the chance for error. By deploying an open API platform, communications service providers (CSPs) can improve their operational efficiency by eliminating network complexities, especially in multivendor environments.
For ecosystem partners, open API platforms like Apigate-DTE make it easy for those who wish to tap into mobile user markets to customize and to integrate into the carrier platform -- this, for example, enables them to use the host carrier's systems such the Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) platform for monetisation.
Underpinning Apigate's Digital Telecom Enabler (DTE) is Huawei's powerful Convergent Billing System (CBS), which has been Apigate-DTE's strategic monetization engine.
Open API platforms like Apigate-DTE can also bring an added benefit for the CSPs in prepaid-dominant markets in terms of taking control of direct customer relationships. For years, Internet companies, especially OTT players, have "owned" customers while using CSPs' networks. With the CSP's billing system managing the payments, the CSP can be the one-stop shop for billing and payments -- customers no longer need to settle payments separately when they use different digital services, apps and content.
Strong partnerships powering strong growth
After successfully enabling Axiata's own digital transformation, powering all Axiata's assets in the Asia-Pacific markets, Apigate has expanded beyond the Axiata territory and become a clear market leader. In a recent interview, Zoran Vasiljev, Apigate's CEO, told us that the platform has deployed more than 2,500 interfaces, with a reach of 3.1 billion users and more than 200 partners, including over 110 mobile operators in different parts of the world. It has also enabled non-telco customers to digitally transform their business, such as app developers, gaming companies and e-commerce businesses, as well as companies in logistics and hospitality industries and so on.
What makes Apigate stand out in the market and be recognized as a leader by partners is its agility, scalability, maturity and the ease with which its technology can be integrated and implemented. The platform also delivers fast ROI. Typically, the companies can start generating revenues within three weeks of onboarding Apigate.
The partnership between Huawei and Axiata goes back over ten years. Both companies recognised CSPs' digital transformation requirements early on, and both recognized the benefits of joint innovation. Therefore, it was an obvious decision for Axiata Digital to join Huawei in developing the next generation open API platform. One of the fruits of the shared vision is the Joint Innovation Centre (JIC) in Dongguan. Over 350 open APIs have been enabled by the innovation centre, and more than 60 of them are already monetizable.
At the moment, the teams from both companies are working around the clock in the JIC on the next-generation capabilities that CBS will enable for Apigate-DTE. A few industry leading features that customers will be able to choose to adopt include:
- Authentication: the new platform will enable customer identification with one-touch or even no-touch;
- Advanced communication including AI support: in addition to A2P communication over email and messaging, the new platform will support automation features like chatbots;
- Location: with API enabled through our collaboration with location specialist partners, the new platform will be able to support logistics, transport, and delivery companies to optimize routes with real-time traffic data;
- Extended monetisation cycle: new functions that go beyond normal payment. For example, with the platform's credit rating and scoring engine, the platform can support cash lending to enable uninterrupted user experience.
The Apigate-DTE platform that has been deployed in multiple Axiata subnets and is proven a good way to enable telcos' digital innovation through cloud platform and ecosystem cooperation. To meet telcos' digital requirements, Huawei provides basic enablement capabilities building digital backend and open middle platforms, reducing the technical threshold for telcos' in-house capability. The approach, cloud platform, ecosystem and operation, improve the time-to-market and operation efficiency of telcos and explore a new path for telcos' digitalization.