Speaker Interview: Nik Willetts

Ahead of Telecom APIs 2014, we’ve conducted an exclusive speaker interview with Nik WillettsChief Strategy OfficerTM Forum, about his upcoming contribution at the Telecom APIs event, and general insights on API opportunities and trends…


nik willets

Nik Willetts
Chief Strategy Officer
TM Forum



IIR Telecoms: What are the opportunities enabled by telecoms APIs?

Nik Willetts:

  • ‘Horizontalization’ of IT – enabling carriers to provide a reusable IT fabric where new services and service innovation quickly and cheaply trial, scale or fail ideas. APIs also allow carriers to expose a this fabric to third parties who can also use core telco capabilities in their own digital services.
  • Exposure of telco ‘crown jewel’ data and capabilities to any developer/partner in a quick and easy way.
  • Tighter integration of an elastic cloud infrastructure (network, storage, compute) by being able to orchestrate the exact infrastructure you need, when you need it, directly (and automatically) controlled by the customer.

IIR Telecoms: Are carriers giving up on API standardisation or is this still a realistic goal?

Nik Willetts:

  • The market has matured and shifted from some of the early efforts in this space. In many cases, the reality is the true value of carrier data can only be realized if that data is aggregated with competitors. Most markets are normalizing on 3-4 mobile operators (plus a number of MVNOs) and OTT players are not willing to integrate with hundreds of operators globally to gain access to information, when that same information is often available from other services such as Facebook and Google
  • At TM Forum, we view API standardization as something that will happen through use. Trying to impose standards on a fluid and innovative market will not work. However, if you provide an API, or even design pattern, common vocabulary and approach that saves developers time and progressively becomes regarded as best practice and ultimately becomes the ‘standard’ through use. This is similar to how many open source and internet standards evolve.

IIR Telecoms: Which are the most profitable Telecoms APIs to offer?

Nik Willetts:

  •  This really depends on the telco in question:  their market dominance, customer profile and regulatory environment. As most APIs are exposing existing capabilities and services, they all have high margin but will attract low individual fees, so many services will need serious volume and scale to be profitable.
  • APIs and services which carry higher value will be those which can save other industries money. For example, a financial services company will likely pay a reasonable fee for services which help to reduce fraud, both because of the reduction in fraud-related losses but also

IIR Telecoms: How will WebRTC impact telco API initiatives and what will be the opportunities generated?

Nik Willetts:

  • WebRTC is just one of many hybrid services carrier APIs can enable. The impact will be determined by how carriers prioritize enabling WebRTC over other capabilities.
  • WebRTC opens up some interesting hybrid capabilities between OTT players and carriers. What remains uncertain is how well this can be monetized.

IIR Telecoms: What are the optimum business models for developing Telecoms APIs – working with aggregators or not?

Nik Willetts:

  •  This depends on what you are exposing through the API. Many data-related services, such as location information, customer profiling mash-ups for improved advertising, pay to mobile bill, fraud prevention/reduction, etc. will thrive by enabling a ‘common edge’ which an aggregator can provide. Other two-sided services such as credit checking, address verification, etc. work well directly.
  • Ultimately what matters with APIs is ease of use and volume – the value of the individual data/service is typically low, so you need volume to turn this in to a model contributing significantly to a carrier’s bottom line. And, there’s a lot of margin to make up from that being lost through the decline and commoditization of traditional voice and messaging services.

IIR Telecoms: What do you hope to achieve in attending  Telecom APIs 2014?

Nik Willetts:

I look forward to gaining fresh perspectives from those at the cutting edge on Telecom APIs, and exploring how the work TM Forum’s 1,000 member companies are undertaking to enable the next generation of services can support making these concepts a reality.

Join Nik and the rest of our acclaimed speaker line-up at Telecom APIs, to discuss all this and more.

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