GSMA Operator Platform

In a white paper published earlier this year, the GSMA, the organization responsible for mobile standards and development, introduced a new project called Operator Platform. The white paper is available here. The idea is to provide a cohesive and global Telco Edge Cloud platform with a unified infrastructure and consistent APIs for application providers.

The key to the initiative is the target consumer of the Operator Platform. The initiative is aimed at the folks developing applications (or services) that depend on capabilities that can only be met by the advances provided by 5G and the abundance of computing power at the edges. You can call it democratic computing.

The introductory white paper dives very deep very quickly. It clearly focused on the point of view of the operators rather than the application providers which will be the actual consumers of the Operator Platform. That is understandable since the initiative comes from the GSMA – an organization led by network operators rather than developers of mobile applications. Initially, the white paper must convince other operators that this idea has merit.

The really interesting part of the white paper is the holistic vision of APIs. The APIs to be developed under this project will consider every direction.

  • Northbound – towards the the application provider. This is key for monetization. One can think about this API in the same way that the App Store works on an iPhone or Google Play on an Android phone. In essence both stores provide a unified API ensuring that an App will run on the mobile device. The Northbound API should address security, deployment requirements, charging and monitoring.
  • East-West – This API will focus on other Operator Platforms. It is meant to provide the global coverage we all are used to from our mobile devices. For example, if a self-driving car drives across Europe, we can not expect it to stop just because it crossed from Poland to Germany. So the Operator Platforms have to be federated and publish to each other which capabilities they have. One can imagine an API stating “eMBB Yes/No” to indicate bandwidth capabilities of the mobile network.
  • User-Network – This interface focuses on the user equipment (UE). UE is one of these common terms in the mobile world to indicate the mobile device. These days this is not longer just a mobile phone. it seems that this interface will allow UE to request capabilities from the network.
  • Southbound. This interface connects the OP abstraction layer with the actual Telco Cloud Edge.

This is a much needed development. If successful, it will enable network operators to offer a global platform for application developers which could end in everybody winning. The operators will have a new revenue stream to help pay for the astronomical cost of rolling out 5G; application developers will be able to consume these new capabilities and develop new services, tools and games; and the end consumer will benefit from a brave new world with compute power everywhere.

It will take time, but this is a step in the right direction.

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