What Are Network APIs?


By: Mary Jander

Network application programming interfaces (APIs) are protocols, routines, and tools used by software developers to build applications that can communicate over a network. Network APIs provide a standardized way for applications to extract analytical and statistical information from network components to support customer experience-based technology use cases. Network APIs can be used for either obtaining network information or providing configuration instructions. And they are increasingly used to monetize network services.

Typically, network APIs are leveraged to build applications that require network connectivity, such as web browsers, email clients, instant messaging applications, and online games. Examples of network APIs include HTTP and HTTPS APIs; DNS APIs; SMTP, POP3, and IMAP APIs; FTP and SFTP APIs; and TCP and UDP APIs.

Network APIs for Telcos

For telecom operators, network APIs have emerged as a highly anticipated means for telcos to monetize their 5G investments while meeting customer needs. Network APIs for telcos, also termed telecom APIs, facilitate the standardized interfaces between user-facing applications and complex 4G or 5G networks. These interfaces allow developers to access as well as control network resources and services such as low-latency connectivity and quality of service (QoS).

Telecom APIs help developers to create cutting-edge applications and services that can enable advanced features on 4G networks, as well as implement low latency, ultra-fast data speeds and massive machine-type communication (mMTC) in the case of 5G.

Network APIs for Information and Configuration

Accessing network components with network APIs enables software developers to deliver fuel for technology enhancements to customer services. In other words, useful network APIs allow for new revenue-generating use cases by leveraging 5G network characteristics. Some of the data items that can be obtained from the network for further monetization include:

  • Device details like precise location, status, and identifier
  • Nearest edge cloud selection
  • SIM card change
  • Network quality check
  • Phone number verification

Some network APIs can be used in the application layer to instruct the network. Some commonly used network configuration APIs are SNMP, NETCONF, YANG, and OpenConfig. These APIs are normally used to request network changes. For monetization purposes, the use cases will be different for configuration APIs and usage will be limited to applications such as network performance, slice management, and device onboarding.

How Network APIs Can Monetize Networks

Network APIs can be used to create applications that drive revenue on networks. Examples include the following:

Network slicing: Network slices can be created and managed with the use of network APIs. Specific applications and services can run in virtual network slices by deploying network APIs.

Low-latency applications: With available network APIs like Quality On Demand and device-specific APIs, software developers can create low-latency applications that can be used in edge computing use cases.

mMTC/IoT applications: Device-specific Network APIs can be used to create applications that interact with sensors and machines in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios.

Initiatives for Network APIs

Network API initiatives like GSMA Open Gateway and the CAMARA Project are facilitating and bringing network APIs to software developers for use in building applications that easily leverage networks, including 5G networks.

APIs defined with GSMA Open Gateway are getting into the CAMARA community. Formulization and publishing with the CAMARA Project gives members access to the ecosystem. The CAMARA community will enable quick access to telco network information for developers, along with friendly tools and software code.

Use Cases of Network APIs

Since the launch of initiatives, there have been a few use cases demonstrated by operators in joint proofs of concept (PoCs) and at the MWC 2023 events. Network APIs like Quality On Demand and Edge Site Selection are the most realized use cases in recent demonstrations by different operators.

Some prominent examples include the following:

Automated valet parking supported by 5G Quality-On-Demand Network APIs. This use case was conducted by Deutsche Telekom for BMW with Valeo support to test the intelligent tracking and routing of BMW iX cars in an automated valet parking trial in a Munich garage. The Quality-On-Demand API, which is the first network API standardized in CAMARA, was used for the application. The API reduced response time for communication with cars over a 5G network.

Virtually assisted remote maintenance. This use case has been conducted by Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile US with a collaboratively built network API platform called T-DevEdge. The Quality-On-Demand network API has been used to reduce and improve network performance and bypass the need for manual intervention for remotely configured augmented reality applications.