The GLF CBN: Where automation meets settlement

The GLF CBN: Where automation meets settlement

04 December 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

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The ITW Global Leaders’ Forum is due to publish its whitepaper on the Communications Blockchain Network (CBN), Capacity investigates.

June saw the annual meeting of the ITW Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF) during the 2019 International Telecoms Week (ITW) conference.

Like previous years, this meeting coin-cided with the launch of another initiative, bringing together its vast ecosystem of service providers in the name of progress. Its latest project? The Communication Blockchain Network (CBN).

This special purpose vehicle will be used to develop a live blockchain based platform, which in turn will revolutionise the ICT service provider industry’s commercial settlement infrastructure. The CBN will be governed by a collaborative structure, having already gained the support of several service providers in the development of the platform. This includes, A1 Telekom Austria, BTS, China Telecom Global, Colt Technology Services, Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, IDT, Orange, PCCW Global, Tata Communications, Telefonica and Telstra.

Additionally, twelve technology providers have actively participated in development of the CBN Reference Architecture and initial use-cases, these are, Amartus, Clear Blockchain Technologies, ConsenSys, CSG and their wholesale business, Difitek, IBM, Internet Mobile Communications, Orbs, R3, Subex, Syniverse and TOMIA.

As the development of the CBN is now underway, the GLF and the CBN members have been hard at work on a whitepaper about the initiative, to further demonstrate the benefits of the project and better inform the industry of its importance. The CBN is expected to publish more details of the project in the first quarter of 2020, including the whitepaper.

There are five key areas where the CBN is likely to play a fundamental part in the advancement of this work. The first being that it will govern the adoption of standards for technology providers to guarantee interoperable settlement of traffic for all ICT providers in the CBN ecosystem. Second it will specify a core set of services for ICT Service Providers to join a trusted settlement network that will be operated by members of CBN. Third it will provide on-going governance and oversight of the settlement network. Fourth it will promote further membership and participation in the CBN, and lastly it will coordinate the collaborative development of the architecture and services that support multiple products, allowing users and software vendors to create interoperability.

This work comes at a time when there is an increasing need for automation and trust in settlement. The wholesale connectivity industry is underpinned by bilateral agreements between ICT Service Providers, with many services spanning multiple providers’ networks. As a result, using a distributed and non-hierarchical ledger, makes DLT a good fit for ICT Service Provider wholesale supply chain scenarios.

DLTs allow for multiple parties who do not have full trust of one another to collaboratively update a shared source of truth, under agreed rules, without requiring a neutral third party for enforcement.

As for the automation piece, the current ICT Service Provider environment consists of operational silos. Each provider has developed its own operational ecosystem where it performs its sales activities and manages the lifecycle of services delivered through its platforms. This means that any ICT Service Provider that wants to establish automation of services with multiple partners will have to develop dedicated APIs for each and every one. Additionally, providers coming from the telco and mobile space, have focused their automation efforts primarily on internal processes and on-net services. Therefore, inter-ICT-Service Provider operations and settlement is largely done manually. This in turn, pushes timelines for delivery of services to anywhere from weeks to months.

In response to this, the CBN aims to develop an architecture for an automated platform that will be interoperable with legacy platforms, followed by gradual migration of services from legacy platforms to the automated platform. This will then allow ICT Service providers to trade and settle network capacity or other products, such as wholesale voice in real-time.

By automating inter-ICT Service Provider settlement providers are set to benefit from increased revenue growth, with the option to deliver its customers on-demand services that were otherwise impossible using manual processes. As well as faster and more efficient operations, that yield faster results, this includes faster time-to-market, faster order-to-fulfilment timelines, as well as shorter fault identification and repair, and shorter settlement and reconciliation timelines.

And last of all, a significant reduction in costs with the streamlining of labour and the systems required in the ICT Service Provider environment.

The roadmap ahead is clear for the GLF and the CBN initiative, since the official launch and approval of the project during ITW 2019, the project will now enter into a period of development and testing of initial set of minimum viable products, with development of additional products continuously ongoing. The CBN members target bringing first production solutions to market during 2020.