Airtel Will Open Up Location & Micropayment API’s In 3-5 Months; Vodafone No-Show


Airtel

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, is planning to open up its location and Micropayment API’s in 3-5 months, Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel, said at a Lightspeed Venture Partners event. Amit Somani, Chief Product Officer at MakeMyTrip had tweeted these updates from the event, which he has verified to us. On being contacted by MediaNama, Airtel has declined to confirm or deny this, only saying that they have no comment to offer at this stage. We’d also asked Airtel for inputs on their plans for revenue share for billing, and the role of their VAS department, once an open API has launched, but they have declined to comment. Dev Khare of Lightspeed Venture Partners also confirmed to MediaNama that Vittal had spoken about opening up Airtel’s API at their event.

Vittal expects 100 million “real, deep smartphone” users just for Airtel over next 3 years, up from 20-30 million at best today. Last quarter, Airtel became the first Indian telecom operator to cross 50 million mobile Internet users, though this base might also include WAP users, who open URL’s only the basis of WAP pushes, and can’t really be deemed to be regular mobile Internet users.

An open API would allow developers to plug into the telecom operator network, and use location data and billing mechanisms for a number of things: allowing better target advertising (like VServ has done with Airtel), location based services, or direct to consumer billing for Internet based services. At present, telco billing is via third party aggregators like Fortumo, Boku) and Neomobile.

 

 

Vodafone API: No-Show of the Year?

Readers might recollect that Vodafone had also announced plans to open up its API in April this year, a project that was expected to go live latest by June 2013, and delivered by Aepona. We’re not sure if Vodafone has opened up its API, but the project did appear to have hit a roadblock post Jonathan Bill leaving Vodafone to start up. In fact, a developer had contacted us asking for an update on the launch of the program: apparently, they were ready to launch, but post registering, had received no response to their queries from Aeopona, the company rolling this project out. The last time we checked with the developer, in September, they still hadn’t received a response. 

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All in all, telecom operators opening up their API is a great move, when it happens, if it happens. We would recommend that developers wait for something to be launched, before beginning work, developing products ready for integration.

 Update: We had incorrectly identified Amit Somani as the Chief Technology Officer of MakeMyTrip in an earlier version of this post. He is now the Chief Product Officer. The error is regretted.