06 June 2018
Wholesale telecoms leaders are trying out the first uses of blockchain to end reliance on slow, paper-based settlements. Alan Burkitt-Gray talks to Eran Haggiag and Gal Hochberg, the executives behind the proofs of concept
The company behind this
year’s blockchain trial by Colt and PCCW Global
believes that the technology will reduce fraud and settlement
times – and increase efficiency.
The team has been working on blockchain and cryptocurrencies
for about five years now, "waiting for the right timing for
enterprises to start considering blockchain technology", says
Eran Haggiag, now executive chairman of Clear. "We have tried
to find how to create significant value to enterprises using
He and CEO Gal Hochberg set up Clear, a Singapore-registered
company, to develop the technology. "What we’re
doing is building core technology for various markets," says
Hochberg. "We’re looking at energy, shipping,
advertising and others. Our main focus at the moment is the
telecoms wholesale market. We aim to make it more effective and
enable the creation of new services and products."
He observes: "In many markets services are delivered by
automatically by computers, but billing is done by people."
That description fits the wholesale market precisely.
Clear is working with the Global Leaders’ Forum
(GLF), the grouping created by the top industry executives who
a decade ago approached Capacity Media to start International
Telecoms Week (ITW). The trial by Colt and PCCW Global a few
months ago was the first proof of concept, but we expect
details of others to emerge this week.
As Colt CEO Carl Grivner told Capacity in March,
blockchain’s power for the wholesale carrier
industry is that for decades the process of reconciling records
and settling debts has been laborious. "This is something that
normally takes months," Grivner told us. "It’s not
just the reconciliation of records but also the reconciliation
A distributed ledger
Blockchain technology, it now seems clear, can make
inter-carrier settlements more efficient, reliable and
The GLF meets several times a year at major events in the
industry, such as ITW. "We came up with the idea at Capacity
Europe at the end of October 2017," said Grivner in March. From
there to a working proof of concept took just four months.
Let’s take a step back. What is blockchain?
Hochberg says: "Think of it as a ledger that’s
distributed – unlike a database, that one person owns
and someone decides about. With blockchain, everyone comes
together. You agree on it as one source of truth, and
it’s built for a global scale."
In the proof of concept with Colt and PCCW Global, "we
managed to settle a month of traffic in less than one minute
between the two carriers", he says. "I’m confident
that the technology can be scaled up to handle all voice and
data settlement and clearing."
Is it really secure? "We use a technique called zero
knowledge proof – which allows us to maintain
privacy," says Hochberg. "It’s slightly
counterintuitive: it lets you create a transaction that someone
can check without knowing who you are or knowing the details of
But is it proof against attack? He is sure: "Over the last
few years it’s held values in billions of dollars,
and the underlying technology is very strong." It is
open-sourced and run by a wide range of bodies.
"We’ve not seen any government take them down.
Bitcoin has been around for almost 10 years. It’s
constantly under attack, so we have a high confidence that the
core underlying technology is secure."
For the carrier business, "Clear’s contract
creation system allows you to define the ways disputes are
resolved, starting with simple rules of averaging and scaling
to sophisticated rules that can take advantage of the data in
the network while respecting privacy," he adds.
Clear plans a multilayer blockchain, he says: "You have an
interface between the private blockchains between carriers and
a public blockchain. It gives you scale: we’re
talking multiple orders of magnitude. It’s a
decentralised network, leveraging the power of the network. You
distribute the load across the network." The more companies
that join, the more power you have.
When I spoke to Hochberg and Haggiag a few weeks ago, they
were already discussing new projects with the GLF, "but I
can’t disclose the information", said Hochberg.
"We’re working with carriers to understand the
relevant timelines as we’re building the system
up. Over time we’ll be scaling up the number of
carriers and the percentage of traffic from each carrier."
The final word goes to executive chairman Haggiag: "This is
a big opportunity for the wholesale telecoms industry to unlock
significant cost-cutting through reducing manual labour,
reducing fraud through fast and rapid settlement and increasing
collaboration in the industry by making it easy to create and
telco news Colt,