21 March 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Colt CEO expands on trial by his company and PCCW Global into using blockchain for wholesale settlements
The trial of blockchain for
wholesale settlements carried out by Colt and PCCW Global is
just the beginning.
Carriers could use blockchain for a whole new range of services
– even to start a currency that companies in the
wholesale industry could use to pay for the services they buy
from one another, says Carl Grivner, who’s been
CEO of Colt for two years.
Sceptical? "Fifteen years ago people were talking about the
cloud just as people are talking about blockchain today," he
says. "But, now, people are starting to study blockchain and
As we announced last week, Colt and PCCW
Global have started trials to see how blockchain can speed up
time for inter-carrier settlements and make them more reliable.
The proofs of concept they have carried out so far indicate
that blockchain can cut inter-carrier settlement times from
hours to minutes.
It’s early stages, says Grivner. "The settlement
test with PCCW Global is a baby step." What will follow? He
already has a list of possibilities. "The most exciting of them
is cyber security."
The whole blockchain project has emerged from the Global
Leaders’ Forum (GLF), created by the top industry
executives who a decade ago approached Capacity Media to start
International Telecoms Week (ITW).
The GLF meets several times a year at major events in the
industry. "We came up with the idea at Capacity Europe at the
end of October 2017," says Grivner. From there to a working
proof of concept took just four months, he notes.
The third partner in the project is a Singapore-registered
blockchain start-up, Clear, whose CEO, Gal Hochberg, had
already worked with Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, the
international arm of Hong Kong’s HKT.
Halbfinger chairs the GLF, which aims to foster an environment
within the industry that focuses on ubiquity, collaboration and
interoperability between providers. This proof of concept was
centred on these themes by attempting to understand how a
technology such as blockchain can benefit the sector as a
"I applaud Marc for his lead on this," says Grivner.
Blockchain is, simply, a distributed ledger –
duplicated many, many times for security, and the members of
the GLF have been discussing its potential for some time before
that meeting at Capacity Europe.
Its power for the wholesale carrier industry is that for
decades the process of reconciling records and settling debts
has been laborious. Blockchain technology, it now seems clear,
can make inter-carrier settlements more efficient, reliable and
"This is something that normally takes months," says Grivner.
"It’s not just the reconciliation of records but
also the reconciliation of discrepancies."
The blockchain trial by Colt and PCCW Global shows that
it’s possible to reduce inter-carrier settlement
times to minutes using blockchain technology. It’s
not just more accurate but "it means better cashflow", says
Already he and Halbfinger – along with the rest of the
GLF – are looking for ways to move beyond the first
proof of concept, which involved voice minutes, largely because
that was a well understood service provided by most
"Maybe a cryptocurrency," he muses. "It could be used by
telecoms carriers and maybe even by customers. Marc and a few
others have talked about the creation of a
Blockchain is best known, so far, as the engine behind Bitcoin,
the cryptocurrency whose fluctuations in price have led to
comparisons with Amsterdam’s tulip bubble of the
1630s. But whatever people say about the viability of Bitcoin
and other cryptocurrencies, some are starting to realise that
Blockchain could have important business applications
– and telecoms is just one of the possible uses.
Not just bill settlement and security uses, and not just the
idea of a cryptocurrency. "There are a lot more examples," says
Grivner. "The idea is to enrol more applications in the
blockchain – not just settlement."
What’s the next step? "Let’s enlist
others industry-wide to look at some of the other applications,
such as security." Because blockchain is a distributed ledger,
it’s almost impossible for one individual or
company to create fake entries.
"Blockchain has raised the cybersecurity bar," he adds. "It
could be used for email, billing and other applications." The
mobile industry should find applications in roaming, he notes.
"Ultimately I’d like to see the technology in our
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