Providing an enterprise with 1,000 special-purpose mobile devices for a big IT project would have been a time-consuming chore for a solution provider just a few years ago. It required lots of paperwork, probably some phone calls to a master agent and a few days of waiting while the telco on the other end (manually) provisioned each device on its network.
Today, solution providers like New York-based MetTel don't have to build big delays into their schedules, thanks to the use of a mobility activation application programming interface (API) from AT&T.
Dallas-based AT&T has provided MetTel and other companies in its Partner Exchange program with access to three new APIs, each aimed at helping cut down the time and effort required to deliver mobile devices and services to enterprises.
In much the same way that Windows or macOS makes personal computers easier for humans to use, APIs provide ways for machines, networks, and applications to "talk" to one another via a common software interface. All "software needs an interface that makes it easy to consume data and/or functionality," writes Programmable Web Editor-in-Chief David Berlind.
For solution providers, APIs can help save time, money and effort, as well as cut down on data entry mistakes. "The APIs [from AT&T] replace [older] back-end processes, and users can get immediate responses to their requests," explained MetTel's vice president of mobility, Max Silber. "It allows for us to scale our overall business faster."
In telecom, APIs are a huge help. When an enterprise user selects a phone from an online portal or store, it touches off a complicated activation process. There's a handshake between the carrier's billing and provisioning systems, the solution provider's device management systems and a company's internal systems. On the carrier side alone, the provisioning includes selecting or porting the phone number, assigning a SIM card to a device, and activation. Indeed, a lot has to happen for the device to "just work."
With its use of APIs in its Partner Exchange, AT&T is now shaving minutes and seconds off each of those processes. It may even go unnoticed to the user, but when procuring and activating thousands of devices a month, Silber said the scale become incredibly important.
Not only that, use of APIs cuts down on manual data entry and programming, so there is less of a chance of a human data entry error, which could lead to a device activation delay or a bill being sent to the wrong place.
Those little efficiencies add up in other ways. For MetTel, which also sells IoT, cloud computing, SD-WAN and other technology services through the channel, the right APIs between systems can help it automate how it provides services to its partners. "A lot of our success and growth has been through the channel community," Silber said. "We provide our channel with instant access to a variety of different state-of-the-art technologies."
MetTel has been part of AT&T's Partner Exchange since the program's inception four years ago. The company has thousands of customers, from SMBs to large enterprises and employs about 400 people.
Separately, AT&T is expanding its training courses for partners. In tandem with its strategic use of APIs, the courses are aimed at helping solution providers get to market more quickly. "Solution providers can earn professional-level certifications in both Network Services and Mobile Services in half the number of courses and in up to 58 percent less time than before," AT&T said in a press release.