Six carriers show that blockchain can speed international settlements

23 October 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Six global carriers have reported to Capacity Europe of their success in a worldwide trial of blockchain for international settlements.

The proof of concept (PoC), announced on the opening day of Capacity Europe, follows an exercise earlier this year by Colt and PCCW Global. In the latest series of trials, they were joined by BT, Orange, Telefonica and Telstra.

Colt CEO Carl Grivner said: “Following the successful trial with live data by Colt and PCCW Global, it was an important next step to prove the use case for blockchain technology in our industry by repeating it with multiple carriers.”

The PoC demonstrated the viability of a platform that can settle voice transactions between multiple carriers in minutes rather than hours. As earlier this year, blockchain specialist Clear provided the technology. The trial was again coordinated by the ITW Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF).

Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global and the chairman of the GLF, said: “It has been a strong belief within the GLF that innovative technologies such as blockchain can be harnessed to improve the overall efficiency of the industry, and it is now clear that the industry can look forward to the benefit of becoming further aligned. Industry cooperation in this area will be a game changer for the whole sector.”

The first GLF-backed PoC saw Colt and PCCW Global working bilaterally to demonstrate how the inter-carrier settlement of wholesale international voice services could be automated through the use of blockchain. By using technology from Clear, the two partners were able to reduce a normally labour-intensive process from hours to minutes. That PoC followed discussions involving the GLF, Colt and PCCW Global at the 2017 Capacity Europe event.

The PoC was expanded in May, when BT, Orange, Telefonica and Telstra joined the trial to study the viability of the blockchain platform to settle traffic in a multi-carrier environment. The PoC was able to demonstrate that the initial trial – which saw successful input of live data feeds into the ledger, enabling traffic to be automatically verified and settled between two carriers – can be scaled to work across multiple touchpoints.

Pierre-Louis de Guillebon, CEO of Orange International Carriers, said: “It was essential to establish that blockchain-powered settlement of international voice transactions could be done on a multi-lateral basis and in a secure environment that is able to handle the fast pace of transactions between operators.”

Damien Staples, BT’s VP of global wholesale voice, agreed: “It is essential that the carrier industry innovates to reduce complexity and reduce operating costs. This PoC has been an important stepping stone in that journey.”

Juan Carlos Bernal, CEO of Telefónica’s International Wholesale Business, was positive about the implications of the PoC: “We believe that blockchain has the potential to drive forward the entire wholesale sector, helping it to gain efficiency as well as acting as a sound base for the launch of vital new services,” he said.

Telstra international sales and service executive Oliver Camplin Warner commented: “We are delighted to be part of this pioneering proof of concept to explore how blockchain can bring increased efficiency, productivity, scalability and security to wholesale telecommunications transactions.”