How Can Carriers Attract Developers?

October 25, 2012

Everyone wants an API these days. And they want developers to use these APIs. What can carriers do to attract developers?

APIs are the new black. If you are developing a service. Or a product. Or anything – you need to expose APIs.

Why? Because everybody does.

In recent years, carriers have lost much of their strength to the smartphone OS vendors – mainly Apple and Google, who are becoming more dominant: innovation today occurs on smartphones and not on the carrier’s network. And the way that innovation occurs is by way of APIs that are offered on the devices for application developers.

Carriers want some of that relationship and innovation back, and the most obvious way of doing that is by offering APIs that others will use. But it is easier said than done: most of the things developers need are on the smartphone already in terms of APIs – be it location, data connectivity, access to phone calls, SMS, etc.

What are carriers trying to do these days in this domain?


AT&T’s Developer Program isn’t new, but it is definitely growing.

The interesting things they do:

  • Offering GSMA OneAPI set of APIs (a standardized set of APIs that carriers can use to expose their network). This to me is a prerequisite for carriers these days
  • Offering proprietary APIs such as their new speech APIs
  • Offer additional tools such as their great ARO tool
  • Partnered with Twilio
  • Partnered with Appcelerator


Telefonica has gone and branded their whole developer initiative as BlueVia.

They offer some neat APIs along with monetization tools for developers. Their main focus, in my view, is trying to reach out to developers directly for the use of their network through APIs.

Deutsche Telekom

Deutrsche Telekom has just launched their Developer Garden, which is essentially around providing building blocks for service creation through APIs.

The developer garden is a marketplace, where developers can find various sets of APIs that they can use: some of these come from APIs that Deutsche Telekom exposed directly, while others come from partnering with the likes of Voxeo.

Other carriers are headed there as well, but these are the ones that are doing the most in my view.

The ways to go at this point in time, can probably be seen as multiple initiatives that carriers need to take:

  1. Expose APIs. As many as possible. Standardized and proprietary.
  2. Integrate and bring into the fold solutions like Twilio or Voxeo or Urbain Airship, which have done the busy work of building a developer ecosystem – leverage on their ecosystem and add deeper integration with their own network.
  3. Integrate with cross platform developer tools – this is their only way into the smartphone itself in my view.
  4. Focus where it matters. Probably the larger enterprises and not the long tail of developers.

Moving forward, M2M will increase the need and the ability of carriers to provide APIs: when the whole usage becomes automated between machines – what is there other than APIs?

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    1. More like a total miss I guess 🙁

      Published my piece and left for the weekend. I will sure be publishing a post on this acquisition next week. Stay tuned!

  1. I think you are right on here, Tsahi. The problem with telecom API providers (Twilio, et al) is that they are going to be dis-intermediated over time because they don’t own the infrastructure and therefore will eventually get squeezed. Twilio in particular has taken steps to address this by partnering with AT&T.

    I think providers of CaaS APIs will have to be very closely aligned with the underlying service providers going forward in order to compete.

    I think your point about focusing on enterprise and not the long tail of developers, is an interesting one. Because of the current love affair with the App Store model, everyone seems to think that finding lots of developers is the key. However, so very few developers in these ecosystems make any real money. You have to go after sustainable enterprise relationships in order to survive. Consumers are not used to paying for these services. Businesses are.

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