Wholesale carriers Colt and PCCW Global in trial of blockchain for speedy settlements

13 March 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Two major global operators have started trials to see how blockchain can speed up time for inter-carrier settlements and make them more reliable.

GLF - PCCW Global - Colt - BlockchainThe two are Colt and PCCW Global, which have already started work on the project and believe that blockchain can cut inter-carrier settlement times from hours to minutes.

"We have demonstrated how blockchain can transform the way we conduct business in the telecom industry," said Colt CEO Carl Grivner

Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, the international operating division of HKT, said: "Everyone is talking about blockchain but the use cases in the telecom industry have been fairly limited until now."

Halbfinger chairs the Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF), an organisation of senior carrier industry executives associated with International Telecoms Week (ITW), the annual event organised by Capacity Media. 

The blockchain technology partner in this project is Clear. CEO Gal Hochberg said: "It is exciting for any business to create something that has the power to truly innovate how an entire industry operates. This proof of concept (PoC) marks the beginning of how blockchain is set to revolutionise the telecoms sector."

Halbfinger said: "While this deployment is currently only at the PoC stage, through our collaboration with Colt and Clear we are eager to demonstrate how the many potential uses of blockchain across our industry can deliver exponential value by improving the ways in which we interoperate." 

Grivner added: "Collaborating with PCCW Global and Clear is ground-breaking."

This PoC was focused on the settlement area of wholesale voice minutes, as most operators have similar processes for these transactions. As part of the trial, the parties involved implemented a bilateral private blockchain to record transactions, which were then reported to a public blockchain. Smart contracts were then used to rate call detail records, resolve disputes and record the settlement transactions.

The companies pointed out that, until now, despite the financial importance of these settlements to wholesale carriers, they still involve manual transactions which are opaque, complex and costly for all parties. 

In the trial, the application of blockchain’s decentralised, cryptographically enforced, immutable ledger technology resulted in tens of thousands of call records being analysed and settled in a few minutes. Using blockchain technology, hundreds of hours of manual work were reduced to seconds of automated verification and settlement, the companies said. 

They added the point that blockchain technology adds an extra layer of security and trust to transactions in an industry where sensitive and proprietary information is frequently exchanged, fraud is rife, and dispute resolution can be lengthy and complex. 

Most of today’s blockchain technologies lack solutions for scalability, contract privacy and enterprise grade business logic, all critical for an industry-wide settlement and clearing platform. However, through the use of proprietary technologies such as multi-layer blockchain architecture, advanced cryptography and scalability enhancements to existing blockchain implementations, this PoC demonstrated the viability of a blockchain-based wholesale trading system. 

GLF members have been discussing applications for blockchain for some time. GLF aims to foster an environment within the industry that focuses on ubiquity, collaboration and interoperability between providers. 

This PoC was centred on these themes by attempting to understand how a technology such as blockchain can benefit the sector as a whole.

Grivner said: "It is our goal to create a more agile, customer oriented organisation, and one way in which we are doing this is by exploring the benefits of disruptive technologies, such as blockchain." 

Following the trials he said: "This PoC could also see the beginning of a cryptocurrency model where, rather than exchanging cash to settle transactions, carriers could move to a token-based credit environment. If successful, such a model could be rolled out beyond the carrier community to other technology service providers."

Last week the GLFannounced the publication of an industry-led Code of Conduct to reduce fraud in the international wholesale market in partnership with i3forum.

Topics: Blockchain, ITW, Colt, PCCW, PCCW Global, HKT, GLF, voice minutes, settlement