What’s up with… Vonage & Telstra, Nokia, telco GenAI

Shaking on their network API agreement, left to right: Kim Krogh Andersen, Group Executive, Product and Technology, Telstra; Niklas Heuveldop, Vonage CEO; Shailin Sehgal, Group Executive, Global Network and Technology, Telstra.

Shaking on their network API agreement, left to right: Kim Krogh Andersen, Group Executive, Product and Technology, Telstra; Niklas Heuveldop, Vonage CEO; Shailin Sehgal, Group Executive, Global Network and Technology, Telstra.

  • Telstra adds its network APIs to the Vonage platform 
  • Nokia unveils its Network Exposure Platform
  • Mavenir teams up with AWS and Nvidia on GenAI platform for telcos

In today’s industry news roundup: Australia’s national operator is the latest to hook up with Ericsson’s Vonage to help market its network APIs; Nokia has launched a new and broad API exposure platform; Mavenir is collaborating with Nvidia and Amazon Web Services on a generative AI-enabled platform designed to optimise telco operations; and much more!

Telstra is the latest telco to collaborate with Vonage on the Ericsson division’s network application programming interface (API) platform. The Australian operator will add its network APIs to Vonage’s platform which, according to Ericsson, will drive network API digitalisation opportunities in the Australian enterprise sector by allowing businesses and developers to leverage network capabilities to create “innovative, advanced applications and to enhance the customer experience”. Vonage and Telstra will invest in and work on enhancing existing APIs, such as Silent Authentication (a new method that provides secure authentication without requiring users to input passwords or verification information). The pair will also strive to find new open APIs to bring to market, including in the areas of slicing, edge computing, protection against fraud and spam, and network analytical insights. “Together with front-runner service providers like Telstra, we are driving an open ecosystem for exponential innovation that will enable the development of new applications that transform how enterprises operate and engage with customers, while monetising the network,” explained Niklas Heuveldop, Vonage CEO. Telstra’s group executive for product and technology, Kim Krogh Andersen, also envisages the partnership opening up monetisation opportunities “in the same way hyperscalers monetise compute on their cloud as a platform”. In fact, the monetisation of network APIs was a very hot topic at TelecomTV’s recent DSP Leaders World Forum event in the UK. For Telstra, the partnership will help it drive its API leadership ambitions as part of its T25 strategy, while for Vonage, this move equates to new opportunities in the Asia Pacific region. Other major telcos that already collaborate with Vonage on network APIs include Verizon and AT&T.

But Vonage/Ericsson isn’t alone in the emerging network API platform sector… In a related move, Nokia has upped the ante in the race to develop the most useful API platform to digital service providers and their enterprise customers. Building on the development of its Network as Code platform, the Finnish vendor has unveiled its Network Exposure Platform, which it claims will “expand and simplify the number of APIs available to operators, their partners, and customer channels to enable the creation of network-powered applications for consumer, enterprise, and industrial customers.” Nokia claims its Network Exposure Platform (NEP) is the “first implementation of the GSMA Operator Platform” which, according to the industry body, “defines a common platform exposing operator services/capabilities to customers/developers in the 5G era in a connect-once, connect-to many model.” That’s important not just because of what it enables but because the GSMA’s Open Gateway initiative, which identifies APIs to be developed by the Linux Foundation’s open-source Camara project, is at the heart of many telco network API exposure strategies. Indeed, Nokia noted that its NEP will “support Linux Foundation Camara APIs, TM Forum open APIs, edge-based APIs, and other APIs for connecting networks securely to a broader B2B digitalisation ecosystem.” The vendor adds that the NEP “complements and seamlessly integrates with Nokia’s Network as Code platform with developer portal, which aligns to the GSMA Open Gateway aggregator concept and provides a cloud-based platform to connect and monetise service provider networks with application developers around the world.” Read more

Just as hot as the topic of network APIs in the telecom world is, of course, AI (and in particular generative AI), as every service provider and vendor tries to figure out how best to capture the opportunities that artificial intelligence brings to the communications networking industry. The latest development in this space comes from Mavenir, which has teamed up with AI chip and software giant Nvidia and hyperscaler Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop the “​​Operations Co-Pilot that harnesses the power of generative AI (GenAI) to improve service-level agreements (SLAs) and optimise operational efficiency for communications service providers.” The collaboration has, according to Mavenir, shown how GenAI can be used to “define a service assurance AI/pps platform – reducing the burden on operations, support and maintenance teams and enhancing their ability to meet SLAs.” Mavenir’s Operations Co-Pilot for RAN Service Assurance (RSA) can, the vendor claims, increase operational efficiency by up to 40% by automating “network troubleshooting, enabling mobile network operators to rapidly and accurately anticipate network issues and address detected network impairments before they become critical.” Using GenAI with large language models (LLMs) trained on detailed key performance indicators (KPIs), counters, logs and traces from network infrastructure, Mavenir, Nvidia and AWS are jointly “creating a suite of Operations Co-Pilot solutions that will transform the operations management of telecom networks through intelligent automation.” Read more

The European Commission is looking into the UAE telco giant e&’s acquisition of parts of PPF Telecom Group’s business over concerns that the buyer may have received foreign subsidies for the transaction. The governing body of the European Union has opened an in-depth probe into the deal, after a preliminary investigation has identified that “there are sufficient indications that e& has received foreign subsidies distorting the EU internal market”, it said in a statement announcing the move. The alleged subsidies comprise “an unlimited guarantee” from the UAE and a loan from UAE-controlled banks, directly facilitating the purchase by e&. “Such subsidies are among the most likely to distort the internal market as set out in the Foreign Subsidies Regulation. The commission has concerns that such subsidies may have improved e&’s capacity to perform the acquisition as well as the competitive position of the merged entity in the EU going forward, notably by improving its capacity to finance its EU activities at preferential terms,” the commission added. During this stage of the investigation, the commission will examine whether the alleged received support helped e& to “deter or outbid other parties” interested in acquiring PPF’s assets, and it will assess any negative effects on the bloc’s internal market if the takeover is finalised. The commission has until 15 October to make a decision. In August 2023, state-owned operator e& agreed to spend €2.15m on 50% stake plus one share in PPF Group’s telco assets in Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia. PPF Group also has operations in its domestic market of the Czech Republic, which is not part of the proposed deal – see e& accelerates European drive with €2.2bn PPF deal.

Given that sauna bathing is a vital component of Finnish culture, and that there are 3.3 million saunas in the country that has a population of just 5.4 million, it seems highly appropriate that the CEO of Nokia, Pekka Lundmark, has just completed what the company describes as the world’s first “fully immersive” audio and video mobile phone call on an off-the-shelf handset over a public 5G network. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest Lundmark was in a steamy atmosphere at the time of his pioneering interaction with Stefan Lindström, the first Finnish foreign services official to be designated as “Ambassador of Digitalisation and Technology”. The demonstration exploited the new 3GPP immersive voice and audio services (IVAS) standardised codec that has been developed by a consortium of 13 collaborating companies. It is an integral part of the nascent 5G Advanced standard, technologies to which Nokia continues to make major contributions, including the development of a smartphone-specific format for the IVAS standard that will enable interoperability between operators, chipset and handset manufacturers and, eventually, make spatial communication available to everyone. The IVAS codec allows consumers to hear 3D spatial sound in real-time and provides a massive improvement on today’s monophonic smartphone and PC voice call experiences, which are compressed to the point of losing detail. IVAS is part of Release 18 of the 3GPP standard for transmitting conversational stereo and immersive voice and audio. It enables live immersive audio for any device form factor (smartphones, tablets, PCs) and facilitates a highly accurate 3D rendering of audio. It is a further step along the way to enhanced extended reality and potential daily use in a multitude of applications relating to the metaverse. Lundmark, who was a member of the Nokia team that demonstrated the first 2G call in 1991, enthused, “We have demonstrated the future of voice calls. This groundbreaking audio technology takes you to the caller’s environment, creating a spatial and massively improved listening experience for voice and video calls, offering significant benefits for enterprise and industrial applications. Lindström added: “The live immersive voice and audio experience enabled by IVAS improves the richness and quality of the call, and the three-dimensional sound experience makes interaction more lifelike and engaging, bringing a wealth of new benefits to personal and professional communication. Immersive communications technology will also take XR and metaverse interaction to the next level.” Integral to the immersive experience of saunas, the Finns have three favourite drinks: beer; the “Hartwell Original Long Drink” (‘lonkero’ in Finnish) which is a mix of Finnish gin and grapefruit juice; and Jaloviina (‘Jallu’ for short), a heady combination of brandy, and neutral grain spirit. Jallu was popular before and during Finland’s flirtation with the concept of the national prohibition of the consumption of alcohol, in force between 1920 and 1932, an experiment that mirrored the disastrous and utterly failed US attempt to stop people drinking a little of what they fancied. Since Finnish prohibition was repealed, Jallu has become even more popular. Unfortunately, Nokia has not revealed what tipple might have been used to toast the first fully immersive 5G audio and video call, but “bottoms up”, “down the hatch” and “kippis” anyway. 

Veon is to increase its investment in the recovery of Ukraine’s digital infrastructure to US$1bn between 2023 and 2027, up from the $600m it announced a year ago. In a statement, the operator group noted that the increased funding will focus on network and digital services, including potential acquisitions or new asset development, as well as social contributions and partnerships. The investment will be made through Kyivstar, Veon’s fully owned subsidiary in Ukraine. “Veon and Kyivstar support Ukraine’s resilience, recovery and reconstruction in every possible way, from meeting the vital connectivity needs of the country to serving the population with digital capabilities; from futureproofing our network with Open RAN partnerships to ensuring energy resilience and continuity; from supporting Ukrainian businesses today to investing in the country’s digital ecosystem for the future,” said Oleksandr Komarov, CEO of Kyivstar. Read more.

More news from Europe… Deutsche Telekom (DT) has won a legal battle to be paid interest by the European Commission on a portion of a fine that was reimbursed to it in 2019. In a statement, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the EU’s governing body “must pay interest on fines it has unduly imposed in competition matters and which it has provisionally collected”. The order relates to a fine of around €31m that the European Commission imposed on DT in October 2014 for abusing its dominant position in the Slovakian broadband market. DT subsequently brought an action for annulment of that decision before the General Court of the European Union, while provisionally paying the fine in January 2015. As a result, the fine was cut by around €12m and this amount was repaid by the commission in February 2019. DT also requested that the commission pay default interest on that amount for the four-year period between the two decisions and CJEU has now ordered in its favour.

The GSMA claims its MWC 2024 event contributed €502m to the economy of Barcelona. It is a notable achievement and marks the first time since the event moved to the city in 2006 that the reported economic impact of the enormous annual extravaganza on the macro-economy of Barcelona has exceeded half a billion euros. The GSMA also calculates that during the past 18 years, the total sum of money generated for the City of Barcelona by Mobile World Congress events is €6.3bn. The first time the MWC was held in Barcelona – the year after the GSMA finally outgrew the space available at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes on the Côte d'Azur, France, and decamped to Catalonia – the event contributed less than €250m to the municipality. This year’s event also created more than 9,200 short-term jobs for local workers. Since 2006, MWC Barcelona is estimated to have generated over 160,000 part-time jobs across the region. Other statistics from the GSMA show that 101,000 visitors from 205 countries and territories across the world attended MWC 2024 as did 2,700 exhibitors, sponsors and partners. More than 59% of attendees represented industries either in or adjacent to the core mobile ecosystem. Meanwhile, the GSMA Ministerial Programme brought together over 180 delegations from 140 countries, including two heads of state, 70 ministers, 120 heads of regulatory authorities and more than 40 intergovernmental organisations. John Hoffman, the CEO of GSMA Ltd, the branch of the industry association that runs the event, commented, “Our contribution to the prosperity and economic opportunities of Barcelona is clear, and we are delighted and proud to be part of the success of this city which means so much to us. MWC and Barcelona is the perfect combination of innovation, collaboration and mutual success – without the support of Host City Partners and the people of Barcelona, we wouldn’t be able to put on such a successful event, year after year. We are so grateful for this public-private partnership,” as are taxi drivers and the owners of the restaurants and bars of Barcelona, of which there are a great many. Jordi Valls, deputy mayor of Barcelona City Council, added, “The news today of MWC’s economic impact [on] Barcelona is a message of confidence in the city, and is evidence of our shared success. After 18 years of relationship, we can affirm that the MWC is much more than just a congress for Barcelona, and that Barcelona is much more than just a city for the GSMA.”

- The staff, TelecomTV

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