Leading Lights 2019 Finalists: Most Innovative Blockchain for Telecoms Strategy

The use of blockchain technology in the telecoms sector is still in its infancy but there is a great deal of research and testing underway by service providers and vendors alike to develop new services and make processes more efficient and secure.

That's why we added the Most Innovative Blockchain for Telecoms Strategy category to this year's Leading Lights program. The award will go to the company that has "devised the most innovative blockchain-based strategy in the telecoms market during the past year."

The winners and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner, which will be held at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, on Monday, May 6, on the eve of the Big 5G Event. Find out about how to book a table and attend the awards dinner by clicking on this link.

Here are some details about the shortlisted entries in the category of Most Innovative Blockchain for Telecoms Strategy:

Colt Technology Services
International service provider Colt is often at the forefront of technology innovations in the telecoms market and here it is again, teaming up with fellow network operator PCCW Global to collaborate with Clear, a blockchain startup, to kick-start a proof of concept (PoC) exploring how blockchain technology could be used to transform the way the telecoms sector conducts business.

The PoC, announced in March 2018, "aimed to ascertain if blockchain technology and programmable smart contracts could be applied to make inter-carrier settlements more efficient, reliable and scalable," Colt noted in its entry.

In the first step, Colt and PCCW Global demonstrated "how the inter-carrier settlement of wholesale international voice services could be automated through the use of blockchain. Using technology from Clear, the two partners were able to reduce a normally labour-intensive process from hours to minutes," Colt noted.

The technology developed during the PoC allows for automatic settlement and dispute resolution based on a live stream of CDRs (call detail records) automatically computed against existing rate sheets and contracts' commercial logics. "This approach reduces costs, inefficiencies and fraud, while maintaining the confidentiality of contracts and commercial details," noted Colt.

The PoC attracted attention from other operators, including BT, Orange, Telefonica and Telstra, who joined the collaborative efforts. The resulting technology and processes are due to go into production this year in the form of a "staging environment that allows for the testing of new versions and will remain live in parallel to the production network."

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Reno, Nev.-based Filament has developed what it claims is an industry first with its Blocklet, technology that transacts data to a blockchain from the point of data origination, "enabling edge devices and enterprise data systems to automate business processes through provable, end-to-end trust."

In May 2018, Filament launched its Blocklet in a USB-compatible version called the Blocklet USB Enclave, which "can be used in any existing system or device with a USB port to securely execute transactions on a blockchain. With Blocklet installed on devices where information is generated, IoT attack vectors are eliminated, providing assurance of data integrity and the ability to power transparent value exchange."

Now the company is working with an unidentified Tier 1 operator on a PoC designed to validate data for an IoT device management program and with multiple companies on connected car and telematics developments.

Filament is also positioning its technology to help with "hardware asset management for vehicles, telematics devices and equipment used in 5G Radio Access Networks," as well as to support smart contracts and M2M payments, it noted in its submission.

In 2018, roaming management and revenue assurance expert Mobileum began developing and testing the ways blockchain technology can help improve both operational efficiency and customer experience. It now has four blockchain-based solutions in live trial deployments with operators.

In one trial, Mobileum is using blockchain to guarantee caller ID information across international voice routes. "Caller ID is often lost or changed as calls transit international networks. A wrong or missing Caller ID often means calls are not answered and missed calls cannot be returned," noted the company in its submission.

Mobileum is using Blockchain to accurately transfer call information out-of-band and then re-associate it at the destination network just before delivery, providing a guarantee that the correct originating international Caller ID is displayed.

The other trials focus on financial settlements. One involves the use of blockchain to evaluate financial settlements between operators, while another covers the clearing and settlement of roaming records between operators. "Currently, the clearing houses that manage roaming charges typically take two days to clear data records and charges are only settled monthly. Using blockchain, Mobileum ensures that data records are available to both operators in near real time, giving each immediate financial visibility of their position," noted the company.

The same type of solution is also being tested for in-country interconnect charges between fixed and mobile operators. Such settlement solutions can also play a role in IoT deployments involving multiple parties sharing the revenue.

Synchronoss Technologies
Messaging system and digital platform specialist Synchronoss Technologies is one of a number of companies helping mobile operators develop and offer Rich Communications Service (RCS) applications, and it has taken this focus a step further by helping to add blockchain to the mix.

In September 2018, Synchronoss Technologies teamed up with Japanese operator Softbank and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based telecoms blockchain specialist TBCASoft to launch a cross-carrier payment service PoC focused on allowing users to "make a range of in-store, mobile and digital purchases from third party businesses" using RCS-enabled smartphones and enabling mobile payments via an RCS channel. Underpinning the PoC is Synchronoss's Advanced Messaging Platform, a multi-channel communications platform that spans SMS, email and RCS.

The PoC combined the platform's application-to-person (A2P) messaging capabilities with blockchain-based financial transaction functionality to create a secure payment system. "The flexibility of the cross-carrier payment service blockchain API enables the recipient to ... use an RCS-based messaging app or legacy messaging service, like SMS or mobile email, to receive money transfers through a mobile wallet," either in their home country or overseas via operators that are members of the Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG). Those operators include Far EasTone, KT Corp., LG Uplus, MTN Group, PLDT, Sprint, Turkcell, Zain Group and more, as well as SoftBank.

In February this year, SoftBank and Far EasTone completed field trials using the cross-carrier payment service that enabled mobile wallet-based purchases to be made by Japanese subscribers travelling in Taiwan and vice versa.

The end result is a system that enables secure financial transactions through a carrier-native platform that encourages subscriber loyalty, and which enhances the potential uptake of carrier messaging services.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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