Harnessing the Power of 5G

Revolutionizing Telecom with Programmable Networks and APIs

By Ameer Shohail L with Ajay Lotan Thakur

Ameer Shohail is an experienced ICT Solutions Design Specialist and IEEE Senior Member at a Tier 1 telecom operator in the Middle East, specializing in advanced wireless technologies.

Ajay Lotan Thakur is a Senior IEEE Member, IEEE Techblog Editorial Board Member (who edits/adds to blog posts), BCS Fellow, TST Member of ONF’s open source Aether (Private 5G) Project, Cloud Software Architect at Intel Canada.



The telecom industry is on the verge of a significant transformation driven by the convergence of 5G/Beyond 5G and programmable networks. This article explores the immense potential of these advancements, emphasizing the shift from rigid infrastructures to dynamic platforms that offer their capabilities as services. We delve into the importance of programmable networks, the Network as a Service (NaaS) model, and the critical role of APIs. The article highlights the Network Exposure Function (5G CORE – NEF) and its role in creating new revenue streams for CSPs and fostering a thriving digital ecosystem. The TM (TeleManagement) Forum’s emphasis on service lifecycle management and the collective effort towards a digitally interconnected future are key themes, inviting all stakeholders to embrace this transformative journey.

Introduction: The Paradigm Shift in Telecom

The telecom industry is undergoing a profound transformation from traditional infrastructures to more dynamic and flexible systems. This shift is essential to meet the increasing demands for faster, more reliable, and scalable network services. Innovation and collaboration are now crucial drivers of industry growth, enabling communication service providers (CSPs) to leverage cutting-edge technologies to enhance their offerings and stay competitive.

Figure1: EPS Architecture

Figure2: 5GS Architecture

Programmable Networks and NaaS: The New Frontier

Programmable networks and Network as a Service (NaaS) represent the next frontier in telecom innovation. These technologies allow CSPs to offer network capabilities as customizable services, enhancing flexibility and efficiency. The TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) is central to this transformation, providing a standardized framework for the seamless integration of network services. By adopting ODA, CSPs can decouple network functions from the underlying hardware, enabling greater agility and innovation

Figure3: NaaS function wheel, depicting various NaaS functions offered to consumers, REF[1]

APIs: The Engine of Innovation

APIs are fundamental to the telecom industry’s transformation, empowering developers to create innovative services that leverage network capabilities. The Common API Framework (CAPIF) by 3GPP standardizes API usage across various network functions, ensuring smooth and secure communication. This framework acts as a universal language, facilitating collaboration and enhancing security across diverse applications and industries.

Figure4: Functional model for the CAPIF

Network Exposure Function (NEF): Unlocking New Potential

3GPP 5G Core architecture

5GC (Figure2) is the new 3GPP standard for core networks defining how the core network should evolve to support the needs of 5G New Radio (NR) and the advanced use cases enabled by it. The figure below depicts NEF representation in the non-roaming architecture, using 5G reference point representation.

Figure5: Network Exposure Function in reference point representation REF[4]

The Network Exposure Function (NEF) provides a secure, standardized method for exposing APIs, enabling CSPs to broaden their service offerings and explore new revenue streams. NEF is essential for fostering a thriving digital ecosystem, driving innovation, and economic growth in the telecom sector. Figure below depicts how NEF plays a role with the IoT ecosystem in enabling the communication exchange through API.

Figure6: Illustrates NEF and its role in enabling the network and external applications to exchange information, REF[5]

CAMARA Project: Accelerating Innovation through Standardized APIs

The CAMARA project, an open-source initiative hosted by the Linux Foundation, is pivotal in advancing the telecom industry’s move towards programmable networks and Network as a Service (NaaS). CAMARA aims to develop standardized APIs for network services, enabling seamless integration and interoperability across diverse network functions and applications.

This initiative promotes community-driven development and open-source principles, fostering collaboration among CSPs, technology vendors, and developers. Supported by leading industry players, CAMARA drives the adoption of robust, secure, and widely accepted APIs, facilitating new business models and revenue streams. By focusing on the needs of future technologies, CAMARA ensures that the telecom sector is well-equipped to leverage the unique capabilities of 5G, B5G, and beyond. REF[8]

Transition to a Service-Centric Model

The TM Forum’s focus on NaaS and service lifecycle management underscores the industry’s shift towards a service-centric model. This approach emphasizes managing the entire lifecycle of network services, from design and deployment to operation and optimization. By adopting a service-centric mindset, CSPs can deliver more personalized and efficient services, improving customer satisfaction and driving business growth. This approach also helps CSPs optimize operations and reduce costs by streamlining processes and improving resource utilization.

Figure7: Open Gateway NaaS Architecture and contributing stakeholders REF[7]


The telecom industry’s shift to programmable networks and NaaS marks a pivotal moment in its evolution. By embracing APIs, NEF, and service lifecycle management, CSPs can unlock new opportunities for innovation and growth. The collective efforts of industry stakeholders, supported by initiatives from TM Forum, GSMA, and CAMARA, will pave the way for a digitally interconnected future where collaboration and innovation are the norms. As the industry continues to evolve, embracing these advancements will be crucial for CSPs to stay competitive and meet the ever-growing demands of the digital age.

This journey is not just about technological advancement; it’s a collective endeavor towards a digitally interconnected future. It’s an invitation for all stakeholders, from telecom operators and technology providers to developers, to contribute to and reap the benefits of the expanding digital economy. Let’s embrace this transformative time, shaping the way we connect and interact in the digital world.


  1. IG1224 NaaS Transformation v12.0.0″: https://www.tmforum.org/resources/reference/ig1224-naas-transformation-v12-0-0/
  2. “Northbound exposure – how NEF and CAMARA can enable telecom’s platform play” by James Crawshaw, Practice Leader: https://omdia.tech.informa.com/om028769/northbound-exposure–how-nef-and-camara-can-enable-telecoms-platform-play
  3. ETSI TS 129 522 V16.4.0 (2020-08) – 5G; 5G System; Network Exposure Function Northbound APIs; Stage 3.
  4. 3GPP TS 23.501 version 15.3.0 Release 15; System Architecture for the 5G System
  5. “Common Framework for 5G Northbound APIs”: https://www.etsi.org/deliver/etsi_ts/123200_123299/123222/15.03.00_60/ts_123222v150300p.pdf
  6. “5G and B5G NEF exposure capabilities towards an Industrial IoT use case” : https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=5G+and+B5G+NEF+exposure+capabilities+towards+an+Industrial+IoT+use+case&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart
  7. “The-Ecosystem-for-Open-Gateway-NaaS-API-development”: https://www.gsma.com/solutions-and-impact/gsma-open-gateway/gsma_resources/naas-ecosystem-whitepaper/
  8. https://camaraproject.org/; APIs enabling seamless access to Telco network capabilities


Ameer Shohail, Experienced ICT Solutions Design Specialist and IEEE Senior Member at a Tier 1 telecom operator in the Middle East, specializing in advanced wireless technologies

4 thoughts on “Harnessing the Power of 5G

  1. Your article on harensing the power of 5G is exceptionally well-crafted. It comprehensively covers the technological advancements, potential applications, and the transformative impact of 5G on various industries. The clear explanations and insightful analysis make complex concepts easily understandable, offering valuable insights for both tech enthusiasts and general readers.

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