Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka has developed a fast growing API platform that engages developers significantly more than plays by big telcos like AT&T, Orange and Vodafone relative to its scale. How has it achieved this and driven monetisation, innovation and efficiency within the company? And what is next?
The value of APIs
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a central part of the mobile and cloud-based app economy. On the web, APIs serve to connect back-end and front-end applications (and their data) to one another. While often treated as a technical topic, APIs also have tremendous economic value. This was illustrated very recently when Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement over the use of Oracle-owned Java APIs during the development of Google’s Android operating system. Even though Google won the case, Oracle’s quest for around $9 billion showed the huge potential value associated with widely-adopted APIs.
The API challenge facing telcos…
For telcos, APIs represent an opportunity to monetise their unique network and IT assets by making them available to third-parties. This is particularly important in the context of declining ‘core’ revenues caused by cloud and content providers bypassing telco services. This so-called “over the top” (OTT) threat forces telcos to both partner with third-parties as well as create their own competing offerings in order to dampen the decline in revenues and profits. With mobile app ecosystems maturing and, increasingly, extending beyond smartphones into wearables, cars, TVs, virtual reality, productivity devices and so forth, telcos need to embrace these developments to avoid being a ‘plain vanilla’ connectivity provider – a low-margin low-growth business.
However, thriving in this co-opetitive environment is challenging for telcos because major digital players such as Google, Amazon, Netflix and Baidu, and a raft of smaller developers have an operating model and culture of agility and fast innovation. Telcos need to become easier to collaborate with and a systematic approach to API management and API exposure should be central to any telco partnership strategy and wider ‘transformation programme’.
…and Dialog’s best-practice approach
In this report, we will analyse how Dialog, Sri Lanka’s largest operator, has adopted a two-pronged API implementation strategy. Dialog has systematically exposed APIs:
- Externally in order to monetise in partnership with third-parties;
- Internally in order to foster agile service creation and reduce operational costs.
STL Partners believes that this two-pronged strategy has been instrumental in Dialog’s API success and that other operators should explore a similar strategy when seeking to launch or expand their API activities.
Dialog Axiata has steadily increased the number of API calls (indexed)
Source: Dialog Axiata
In this report, we will first cover the core lessons that can be drawn from Dialog’s approach and success and then we will outline in detail how Dialog’s Group CIO and Axiata Digital’s CTO, Anthony Rodrigo, and his team implemented APIs within the company and, subsequently, the wider Axiata Group.
- Executive summary
- The value of APIs
- The API challenge facing telcos…
- …and Dialog’s best-practice approach
- 5 key ‘telco API programme’ lessons
- Background: What are APIs and why are they relevant to telcos?
- API basics
- API growth
- The telecoms industry’s API track record is underwhelming
- The Dialog API Programme (DAP)
- Ideamart: A flexible approach to long-tail developer engagement
- Axiata MIFE – building a multipurpose API platform
- Drinking your own champagne : Dialog’s use of APIs internally
- Expanding MIFE across Axiata opcos and beyond
- Conclusion and outlook
- Figure 1: APIs link backend infrastructure with applications
- Figure 2: The explosive growth of open APIs
- Figure 3: How a REST API works its magic
- Figure 4: DAP service layers
- Figure 5: Five APIs are available for Idea Pro apps
- Figure 6: Idea Apps – pre-configured API templates
- Figure 7: Ideadroid/Apptizer allows restaurants to specify food items they want to offer through the app
- Figure 8: Ideamart’s developer engagement stats compare favourably to AT&T, Orange, and Vodafone
- Figure 9: Steady increase in the number of API calls (indexed)
- Figure 10: Dialog Allapps on Android
- Figure 11: Ideabiz API platform for enterprise third-parties
- Figure 12: Dialog Selfcare app user interface
- Figure 13: Dialog Selfcare app functions – share in total number of hits
- Figure 14: Apple App Store – Dialog Selfcare app ratings
- Figure 15: Google Play Store – Dialog Selfcare app ratings
- Figure 16: MIFE enables the creation of a variety of digital services – both internally and externally