Driving application innovation on next generation networks

The whole world is racing toward 4G. Verizon Wireless boasts it contains “the world’s fastest 4G network.” Sprint is going to “turbo charge your Internet with 4G.” Consumers are excited about the opportunities 4G presents including significantly improved mobile Internet and social networking experiences, movie and TV streaming, and enhanced gaming and shopping capabilities from their mobile devices.

The whole world is racing toward 4G. Verizon Wireless boasts it contains “the world’s fastest 4G network.” Sprint is going to “turbo charge your Internet with 4G.” Consumers are excited about the opportunities 4G presents including significantly improved mobile Internet and social networking experiences, movie and TV streaming, and enhanced gaming and shopping capabilities from their mobile devices.

Oracle’s recent study “Opportunity Calling: The Future of Mobile Communications” surveyed more than 3,000 mobile phone users worldwide and uncovered many new ways mobile consumers are looking to leverage their phones. When asked about features they would like to control from their phone, 87% of respondents mentioned they would like to turn lights and appliances on and off in their homes; 73% would like to start their car remotely; and 59% would like to scan barcodes to access relevant product information online.

Considering the fierce competition for subscribers and developers in the mobile market, communications service providers are racing to leverage 4G’s excitement and promise for technological advancements to build the fastest, most innovative next generation networks. And why not? The proliferation of IP-enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets, coupled with relatively cheap and easy access to mobile broadband Internet, has not only created enormous revenue opportunities, it has flipped the entire mobile business model upside down. Voice will no longer drive revenue. Data services, rich media, and applications will ensure profits in the years to come.

But are communications service providers truly ready to cash in on the excitement and new business opportunities generated by next generation network technologies such as IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), Evolved Packet Core (EPC), and Long Term Evolution (LTE)? As LTE garners a greater share of the global 4G mobile spectrum, the operator’s ability to quickly and efficiently launch and monetize new services on a next generation network is essential to winning and retaining customers. In order to thrive in a diverse and constantly evolving marketplace containing over-the-top device application stores, IMS-enabled cable operators, and voice over IP (VoIP)-enabled Internet service providers, network operators must deliver innovative applications and devices – with simple but attractive business models – quickly and cost effectively.

Network operators have inherent advantages over device manufacturers when it comes to delivering personalized innovative applications. Operators are endowed with detailed subscriber profile information, including customer service preferences. In addition, network operators can incorporate uniquely network-specific telecommunications features – such as short message service (SMS), multimedia messaging services (MMS), device capabilities, location, charging, or presence capabilities – into their service and application offerings. These telecom network capabilities enable network operators to deliver competitively differentiated application functionalities and offer personalized apps and services to each unique user.

But to keep innovation flowing, communications service providers need help. They simply do not have the time or resources to keep pace with the proliferation of new applications developed globally. This support needs to come from third-party developers. Communications service providers must leverage the innovative spirit of thousands of developers worldwide to create cutting-edge applications and value-added services at a relatively low cost. But there are inherent technical and business challenges for operators to fully harness the innovative advantages offered by third-party developers.

Traditionally, implementing an effective and profitable network monetization strategy through services exposure has been rife with numerous business and technical challenges. The legacy service delivery platforms (SDP) many network operators currently use are often based on closed, proprietary technologies, hindering their ability to quickly on-board third party developers and introduce new applications by taking advantage of their unique telecom network capabilities. It can often take up to four to 12 weeks to on-board a third party’s application into the network. And that is just for one application from one developer. Wireless network operators often work with hundreds of third parties – with many requiring the development of numerous custom interfaces to the operator’s network elements, billing support systems (BSS), and operations support systems (OSS) for successful integration into the network. Such a process is cumbersome, risky, and unprofitable to scale for network operators – especially as they scale their SDP infrastructure to an application store business model with thousands of potential global developers.

How can a network operator better attract and retain third-party developers and partners while fully capitalizing on their innovative applications to generate revenue-generating services? The answer is to deploy an open, unified service exposure platform based on both IT and telecommunications industry standards. So how does “opening up” their networks help operators win in today’s app-crazed environment?

A single, centralized service exposure platform contains out of the box and easy-to-use Web services-based application programming interfaces (API) that help minimize customizations and greatly accelerate the application development and on-boarding process for new developers. By providing a diverse choice of different types of APIs – like native telecommunications interfaces – network operators can make their SDPs a much more attractive environment to a wider pool of third-party application developers. In addition, operators can maintain tighter control of network access and usage by third party developers, in order to minimize service outages, ensure quality of service (QoS), and automatically enforce service level agreement (SLA)-based policies in real time.

Ultimately, an open, standards-based, and centralized service exposure platform enables operators to profitably scale their two-sided business models. By seamlessly integrating their SDPs with third-party partner relationship management portals, operators can offload and automate the administration of a large number of third parties. In addition, operators can reuse a diverse portfolio of communication services across many different types of partners, enabling the application of different business models. This enables operators to easily and quickly add new partners or developers without having to “reinvent the wheel,” which accelerates time-to-market for new applications and allows service providers to effectively monetize value-added services on their next generation network.

In order to thrive in tomorrow’s social networking-driven, 4G-based mobile market, communications service providers must ensure their service delivery platforms are evolving toward an open, standards-based, next-generation architecture while their core networks are evolving toward an all-IP based next-generation network. Customers with cutting-edge mobile devices have an insatiable thirst for new mobile services and applications, and the subsequent business opportunities that arise from technological advances are limitless.

But with more and more Internet and consumer electronics players becoming service provider competitors with their own developer ecosystems creating thousands of applications globally, network operators must embrace an open and highly controlled next-generation service delivery platform that can be attractive to third-party developers to deploy new applications quickly and monetize value-added services. It is no longer enough to wait for customers to migrate to next-generation 4G network services. Network operators must leverage external developer innovation – based on their unique telecom network capabilities – to determine their role in tomorrow’s mobile industry and their ability to successfully traverse and profitably monetize network assets in today’s rapidly transforming mobile landscape.