CAMARA Project: API-Driven Seamless Access to Telco Network Capabilities

Welcome to the era of 5G revolution with the CAMARA Project. This initiative exposes telco network capabilities via APIs, simplifying network complexity and providing benefits across telco operators and countries. It's transforming the very fabric of telecom networks into robust service platforms, opening the door for enhanced service capabilities and fresh revenue streams for telecom providers. Dive into this article to learn about the CAMARA Project's journey, its approach towards standardization and simplification, and its vision for the future. Explore now!

CAMARA APIs: Introduction

The telecommunications industry is entering a new era of innovation, unlocking significant potential through the integration of customer use cases with open networks via APIs. As we navigate through the dynamic digital landscape, these integrations not only enable enhanced service capabilities but also contribute to generating new revenue streams for telecom providers. With the advent of the CAMARA APIs, we witness a seamless bridging between customers and Telecom network capabilities across various networks and countries, hence simplifying the complexity inherent in these networks.

Telco network capabilities, while partially available in 4G, have seen an impressive evolution with the advent of 5G, offering us not just the ability to extract information from the network but also enables us to configure it according to our needs. CAMARA APIs provide on-demand, secure, and controlled exposure to these capabilities, transforming operator networks into powerful service enablement platforms. This evolution opens a multitude of possibilities for improved application-to-network integration, a critical aspect for delivering enhanced and service-tailored customer experiences in the 5G era. A deep dive into the capabilities of the 5G network, like identifying the location of user equipment, monitoring the number of user equipments in a geographical region or in a network slice, adapting video resolution based on network congestion, enabling augmented reality through Quality on Demand, supporting low-energy IoT devices, and managing crises by blocking user equipments in a geographic region, shows us the vast potential of these APIs and the new horizons they open up in the telecom sector.

Tackling Telecom’s Hurdles Head-On

The CAMARA Project takes aim at several critical issues faced by developers and multinational corporations in today’s interconnected telecommunications landscape.

Ensuring Scalability through Standardization

A significant hurdle that the CAMARA Project tackles is the quest for scalable business solutions. With the rapid evolution of the digital world, customers now anticipate the same APIs to be accessible across all telecom networks and countries. This expectation presents a demand for the standardization of APIs, which is crucial to ensure scalability and aid developers in their pursuit of creating the next globally recognized product, application, or service.

Achieving Consistency in a Diverse Network Environment

In a world where multinational corporations operate across multiple markets, the CAMARA Project aims to deliver consistent API experiences. Corporations require APIs that work seamlessly, regardless of the network or country, eliminating the need to cater to the unique characteristics of each network.

Simplicity amidst Complexity

The inherent complexity of telecom networks can be a deterrent for developers. The CAMARA Project is striving to cut through this complexity and provide simple, intent-based APIs. These APIs make the process of integration less cumbersome, encouraging more developers to leverage the power of telecom networks.

Enhancing Accessibility through Open Source

In an effort to make APIs more accessible, the CAMARA Project has embraced an open-source model, choosing the Linux Foundation as its home. This approach allows API users to work directly with Communication Service Providers (CSPs) in creating the service, facilitating a more collaborative, modern, agile, faster, and transparent development process.

A Demand-driven Approach to API Development

Finally, the CAMARA Project is committed to a demand-driven approach to designing and developing APIs. By gathering demand from organizations like the GSMA Operator Platform Advisory Group (OPAG) and directly from customers, CAMARA ensures that the APIs developed meet its end users’ needs and requirements.

Defining the Boundaries: The Scope of the CAMARA Project

The CAMARA Project has a broad scope, focusing on several pivotal API development and deployment aspects. It begins with the collection of API requirements from the GSMA Operator Platform Group and other sources to ensure the APIs developed meet the current needs of the industry. Subsequently, the Project sets out to define Service APIs and Service Management APIs, laying a solid foundation for development and testing. A key part of the CAMARA Project’s scope involves creating detailed test plans, cases, and tools from an API consumer’s perspective. This step is crucial to ensure that the APIs function as intended and meet the highest standards of quality and reliability. Additionally, the Project aims to develop comprehensive, developer-friendly documentation, making the APIs easy to understand and utilize, thereby maximizing their potential impact.

As part of its deliverables, the CAMARA Project provides clearly defined and well-documented Service API and Service Management API. Optional API codes are also made available for easy adoption of APIs in telco networks. Furthermore, the Project delivers thorough test plans, cases, and tools, all packaged conveniently for deployment. All these resources, including the API definitions, test plans, and documentation, are readily accessible in the project’s GitHub repository (https://github.com/camaraproject). From a functional standpoint, the Project’s scope is restricted to telco customer-facing service and service management APIs. These APIs cater to various aspects of the telecommunications landscape, including mobile networks, fixed-line networks, edge cloud, and other related areas.

Charting the Course: The CAMARA Project’s Journey So Far

The CAMARA Project began as an initiative to de-facto standardize APIs by code, kicking off its journey at MWC22 with the support of 22 partner companies. The objective was to implement a modern, agile approach that would make the standardization process quicker and more efficient than traditional methods. The open-source nature of the project made it easily accessible to developers, with the development of the API definitions always staying in tune with customer demands.

Today, the CAMARA Project has experienced exponential growth, boasting participation from over 230 companies and more than 650 individuals.

  • 78 Named Partners
  • 236 (+142) companies participating in CAMARA
  • 13 Active API development repos
  • 130+ regular participants in Open Steering Calls
  • 695 (+777) people joined CAMARA
  • Development ”home” for GSMA Open Gateway

The project has successfully covered 12 API families, each catering to a distinct aspect of network functionality. These include:

  • Blockchain Public Address – Manage a blockchain public address associated to a phone number
  • Carrier Billing CheckOut – Purchase, pay, and follow up on fulfillment of products
  • Commonalities – Guidelines and assets mandatory for all CAMARA sub-projects
  • Device Identifier – Check the identity of the subscribers’ device
  • Device Location – Check the location of the device
  • Device Status – Check the network connection and roaming status of a device
  • Edge Cloud – Provide and manage network and compute resources for an application
  • Home Devices QoD – Request prioritization of traffic on a specific device on the home network
  • Identity and Consent Management – Provides solutions to capture, store and manage user consent
  • Number Verification – Allows users to verify the phone number of the connected device
  • OTP Validation – To offer secure user authentication to service providers
  • Quality on Demand – Allows users to set mobile connection quality and get notifications 
  • SIM Swap – Allows users to get information on SIM pairing changes

The project’s successful growth can be largely attributed to its agile and user-focused approach to API development, with each new feature designed to enhance user experiences and streamline network functionalities. In addition, the project encompasses considerations of API security, scalability, and performance to ensure the optimal user experience. 

Illustrating Impact: The CAMARA Project Network API Showcases

The CAMARA Project, in collaboration with the industry-wide GSMA Open Gateway initiative, has seen significant implementation in live networks across North and South America, Europe, and Asia. More than 20 showcases were presented at the MWC23 event in Barcelona in February. These showcases offer real-world examples of how CAMARA APIs are revolutionizing various industries, from music to healthcare to fintech.

Below are some exemplary showcases that highlight the diverse range of applications of the CAMARA APIs:

Remote Maintenance

This project, in collaboration with Deutsche Telekom, Microsoft, Siemens, and T-Mobile US, demonstrates the power of the QoD API for remote maintenance tasks.

Recognizing the value of network APIs, Microsoft Azure has opened up a new section in its marketplace called Azure Programmable Connectivity SDK to offer CAMARA APIs to its developer base. Siemens Energy uses Quality on Demand APIs from Deutsche Telekom / T-Mobile US and this SDK to improve the connectivity for their Remote Field Service Solution. Junior technicians or customers on site are supported by remote experts using the Mixed Reality Remote Assist app on Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets. The Quality on Demand API prioritizes the data traffic of the HoloLens in the mobile network and reduces latency and jitter to a minimum. Technicians can now see the augmented video in the HoloLens with minimum delay in outstanding quality.

Music Over MEC Cross-Operator Jam Session

This project, in collaboration with 5GFF, Open Sesame, Rogers, Verizon, and Vodafone, showcases the power of the Edge Cloud API, enabling a seamless jam session across different operators.

Remote Surgery with XR

In this showcase, apoQlar, Microsoft, & Telefonica use QoD API to facilitate remote surgery with extended reality (XR), exemplifying the transformative potential of CAMARA APIs in healthcare.

Cloud Gaming

In this showcase, Blacknut, Ericsson/Vonage, Orange, Telefonica, and Vodafone use QoD API to facilitate a new generation of cloud gaming experiences providing stable connectivity to activate higher-quality games with a tap of the finger.

Remote Maintenance

AT&T and Microsoft collaborated to leverage the QoD API for remote maintenance, demonstrating the efficiency and practicality of CAMARA APIs in real-world scenarios.

Fintech

In a partnership with Bank Daycoval and Telefonica, the Device Location API was used to enhance financial technology services, showcasing the flexibility of CAMARA APIs across different industries.

Holographic Video Telephony

Deutsche Telekom, Matsuko, and Orange used the QoD and Edge Cloud APIs to create a holographic video telephony solution, demonstrating the future-facing applications of CAMARA APIs.

At the Mobile World Congress 2023, MATSUKO showcased the improved holographic experience using 5G Network APIs provided by Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile US, and Orange in hologram resolution, framerate, latency and bandwidth recorded during real-time holographic calls. Radically improved hologram quality has been achieved thanks to the 5G network Quality on Demand and Edge Cloud APIs and their impact on latency and bandwidth.

For more showcases, visit the CAMARA Project’s resource page at https://camaraproject.org/resources/

Early Access Programs

Early Access Programs are currently provided by a number of telcos. These programs permit customers to trial the latest APIs/features in a dedicated mobile network. Moreover, they allow telcos to gather early feedback and gauge customer demand for the APIs. Below are some examples:

Deutsche Telekom Hubraum program

Deutsche Telekom has labs in Berlin, Krakow,and Seattle with dedicated 5G cores from different vendors. These allow tests to make sure the APIs work in different environments. Using a defined method to onboard customers, perform tests and structured research the labs enable high valuable feedback for the APIs.

5G Future Forums – 5G MEC Acceleration Program

Abstracting Complexity: The Architecture of CAMARA APIs

The CAMARA Project champions an abstraction API architecture aimed at simplifying the complex technical landscape of telecom networks. The goal is to provide customers with intent-based APIs that eliminate the need for detailed technical know-how and allow for a more streamlined, user-friendly interaction with the network capabilities. This approach does away with the complexities often associated with terms like ‘cell ids’ or ‘slices’, which tend to vary from network to network. Instead, the APIs are designed to respond to the intent of the request while the back-end telecom infrastructure executes the necessary technical steps. For instance, a customer might request low latency for the next hour with the Quality on Demand feature.

To fulfill this request, the telecom network would then optimize various elements – device connectivity, RAN, exchange point location, fixed line optimization, application edge location, and WIFI devices. All the while, the customer sees only their initial request and the final result, thus abstracting the underlying complexity. Abstraction from Network APIs to Service APIs is a crucial part of the CAMARA project as it: Simplifies the complex telecom network, creating APIs that are easy to consume even for customers with limited telecom knowledge. Ensures compliance with data privacy and regulatory requirements. Facilitates the integration of applications with the network.

This strategic approach helps to bridge the gap between the complex world of telecom networks and the simpler, more accessible world of user-end applications.

The Open Gateway Ecosystem: CAMARA’s NaaS API Development

In the world of API development, standardization and interoperability are critical. The CAMARA Project works in collaboration with leading organizations like the GSMA, TM Forum, and the Linux Foundation to harmonize API standards through the Open Gateway Initiative. This collaborative effort resulted in a whitepaper providing a single, industry-wide solution. CAMARA abides by the “exposure” doctrine, outlining how capabilities are made available for external consumption via APIs. The project maintains repositories for various Consumer-facing API families. Service APIs’ definition, development, and validation are executed within different CAMARA Sub-Projects, while Service Management APIs are developed as specific API families within CAMARA. The CAMARA Commonalities working group delineates the API design guidelines, ensuring a uniform API language for developers. These guidelines, focused on elements like header, naming convention, error codes, etc., are designed to be developer-friendly, and all Service and Service Management APIs must comply with them.

From a functional standpoint, CAMARA’s focus is on telco APIs, covering domains like mobile networks, fixed-line networks, and edge clouds. The project primarily emphasizes the northbound interface (the interface between the telco operator and capability consumer), with east-/westbound interface APIs falling outside of CAMARA’s scope (that is covered by GSMA Open Gateway.)

The Northbound APIs are organized into the following categories:

  • Service APIs: These APIs are designed for end consumers and are integrated by developers to utilize specific telecommunications capabilities, such as checking the latency and requesting quality on demand.
  • Service Management APIs: These APIs are used by end consumers to control or gather information about the offered Service APIs in application runtime. For instance, they may be used to monitor current network performance.
  • Operate APIs: These are operational and maintenance APIs provided by telcos to channel partners to assist in service fulfillment and assurance. For example, they are used to link hyper-scalers and aggregators with telcos environments.

While Service APIs and Service Management APIs fall within CAMARA’s purview, Operate APIs do not, as they are already covered by other Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) such as the TM Forum.

From Telco Service Exposure Platforms, CAMARA APIs are exposed through Telco-owned portals and third-party marketplaces like hyperscaler and aggregator portals to the end consumers. Hyperscalers and aggregators have the possibility to create their own enriched products based on the CAMARA APIs and expose that in addition to the CAMARA APIs.

Synergizing CAMARA and GSMA Open Gateway Initiative

The GSMA Open Gateway initiative is a transformative framework of Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs) devised to offer developers and hyperscalers universal access to operator networks. This global endeavor is rooted in GSMA’s expertise and aims to support its members in exposing and monetizing telecommunications network capabilities through Open APIs and universal federation. It serves as the unifying ‘glue’ that melds cloud infrastructure-based services with terrestrial telecommunication networks. The initiative is set to fast-track the development of immersive technologies and services in various areas, including industrial systems, fintech, identity, smart mobility, gaming, Extended Reality (XR), and further Web 3.0 innovations.

In the context of the CAMARA Alliance, the GSMA Open Gateway introduces commercial topics and east-west federation to complete the ecosystem. It ensures standardized northbound business agreement templates for customers utilizing CAMARA APIs and facilitates the development of operator-to-operator interfaces, processes, and APIs to enable federation. The below architecture of this collaborative endeavor showcases the strategic alignment of CAMARA with the GSMA Open Gateway Initiative.

Forging Ahead: The Roadmap for the Future of the CAMARA Project

Looking towards the future, CAMARA is set to become the one-stop destination for all customer and developer-centric northbound APIs. Our forward-thinking strategies include:

  • Addition of more APIs and synchronization of roadmaps across Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and Hyperscalers, aiming to provide comprehensive service offerings that meet various customer needs.
  • Establishing a Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and fortifying project governance, enabling CAMARA to serve as a reliable partner for the entire industry.
  • Consistency in API lifecycle management and global documentation of API versioning. This means knowing which version of an API is in production at each operator, being able to notify when new versions are released, and maintaining ecosystem compatibility as much as possible.
  • Ensuring federation through GSMA Open Gateway, which uses API roaming (operator to operator) but also API aggregation. This federation will enable seamless access for customers, thus enhancing their user experience and fostering customer loyalty.

Numerous API aggregators have begun establishing platforms for CAMARA APIs, facilitating the integration of APIs from various operators. This results in a unified and smooth access experience for the users. Some notable examples include:

  • Nokia: They’ve developed a ‘Network as Code’ platform, which can be found at the following link.
  • Microsoft: They’ve introduced the ‘Azure Programmable Connectivity’ that powers network-aware programming. More information is available at this link.
  • Vonage: They offer a suite of communications APIs that can be found at this link.

In essence, CAMARA’s future is rooted in the broadening of its API offerings, fortifying its governance, ensuring API lifecycle consistency, and fostering federation to enhance customer experience.

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