This year has finally seen Network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) gain commercial traction for both mobile and fixed networks in multiple markets across the globe – mobile network operators across Europe, Asia, and the Americas have latched on to the GSMA Open Gateway’s antifraud APIs, with strong interest from businesses already being reported.

However, these are early days, and regulatory challenges and market dynamics mean that network APIs may not be the success that service providers are hoping for, according to new research from GlobalData.

“The success of the GSMA’s APIs comes after 2023 filled with much excitement and limited progress,” says Gary Barton, research director at GlobalData. “Now there is a model that is finding favour with developers and enterprises. It is also delivering a modest, but real financial benefit to network operators who are carrying the burden of rolling out next-gen technologies such as 5G with, so far, little reward.”

Anti-fraud network APIs have struck a chord with developers and enterprises because of the growing threat of cybercrime. Industry standardisation and cooperation have also given the APIs scale that makes them relevant to large percentages of the population in multiple markets.

“Anti-fraud was not a use case that was particularly highlighted by providers when discussions of network APIs first began,” says Barton. “Finding a real-world need for businesses and agreeing on common standards has been the core to this early success. Meanwhile, standardisation makes it easier and more rewarding for developers to embed these functions into their applications.”

However, replicating the success of these anti-fraud APIs is not a given. The APIs tap into relatively simple network functions. By tackling fraud, they are also likely to find favour with regulators. More sophisticated use cases will require deeper cooperation between telcos and more complex regulatory frameworks – and telcos risk being left behind.

“Connectivity-on-demand services, such as allowing gamers to buy temporary boosts to their bandwidth, have failed to take off because the commercial model is not easy to build,” says Barton. “Regulations such as net neutrality alongside potential security challenges will also need to be navigated. This complexity means vendors, hyperscalers, and systems integrators may be the network API beneficiaries ahead of telcos.”