25 June 2018
| Jason Mcgee-Abe
The biggest questions about blockchain for the telecoms market are: “Where is the bang for the buck?” and “Where and how do we get started?”. If only we had the blockchain Rosetta Stone for telcos.
This article is contributed by
Jacqueline Teo, Chief Digital Officer, and Ravindran
Vice President – International Business, at
Essentially, the core attributes of
blockchain’s shared ledger - trust, provenance,
immutability and anonymity - can benefit any telco transaction
involving multiple parties sharing data, updating data or using
intermediaries. This includes many core BSS/OSS functions like
trading, settlements, billing, provisioning and fraud
management. Telcos can also create blockchain-enabled digital
services such as identity management services, digital rights
management and secure content management.
However, the value to the wholesale telecoms market is more
than the uplift to our internal processes. In a digital world,
a differentiated customer experience is a key competitive
advantage. We therefore need to take serious notice of how our
own customers will embrace blockchain in their own industries.
Some widely-touted examples include:
Such blockchain applications by nature require non-trivial
connected computing infrastructure and an underlying resilient
and highly available network. Operators will need more
sophisticated software-defined capabilities to meet changing
capacity demands. This will be supported by real-time service
assurance, perhaps using augmented reality. And performance
management, not only at a traffic and packet level, but also at
a data level.
What will be key for wholesale operators
Like the internet, blockchain technology is strongest when
everyone is using the same network, so in the future we might
all just be talking about 'the' blockchain.
One has to wonder why it has taken 30 years from its
creation for blockchain to have finally found interest among
the telecoms sector to begin with. What is the motivation today
that was not there before? Or was it due to the craze of
cryptocurrency and its use of blockchain that finally brought
the concept of smart ledger and its features to the mainstream?
Whatever the reasons, one fact of the telecoms industry which
is true is the disruption and acceleration of overall margin
erosion in the retail sector as a result of greater competition
and technology disruption. This disruption has also impacted
the wholesale sector that feeds into the retail
As we all agree, the wholesale industry in internationals
telecoms is the underlying engine that many take for granted.
Connecting to the operators globally, both fixed and mobile,
for the smooth interconnection and exchange of services, it
enables all the services that we use - voice and SMS on
our phones, internet and WAN on the desktop. Hundreds of
operators are transacting wholesale services in the billions
every minute that keep the global retail telecoms sector
Blockchain as a technology offers a solution to some of the
industry’s major challenges, such as business
efficiency, productivity and scalability. Security is a
by-product of blockchain, which is a welcome addition to the IP
layer. While it can be argued that all of the above can be
achieved through business transformation and the adoption of
new IT platforms, the fact remains that IT cannot solve the
day-to-day management of contracts, agreements and the speed of
clearing the agreed terms. Blockchain seems to offer the
opportunity to automate the process from the contract down to
the downstream IT platform that does the actual process - in
other words the whole chain of agreement right to the final
settlement can be automated. When coupled with existing IT
platforms, this allows even greater speed and cost management
to the wholesale operator. The possible applications are in
international wholesale voice, messaging, data and, mobile
industry roaming. There are few independent lead projects
underway which may reshape the industry.
Perhaps the blockchain may be a precursor for the return of
SDR currency as the mode of exchange, only to be replaced by
the hot new technology buzz of cryptocurrency.
Chief Digital Officer,