Eleven telco carriers are investing to set-up a blockchain-enabled settlement platform – the Communications Blockchain Network (CBN). Remarkably it has drawn support from more than ten technology partners, some of which are permissioned adherents and some the opposite.
The hope is that this blockchain-based platform will revolutionise the ICT Service Provider industry’s commercial settlement infrastructure. It is an opportunity worth billions of dollars to the telco industry from costs saved to revenues generated from new products and services.
Marc Halbfinger, Chair of the GLF (Global Leaders Forum) and Chief Executive Officer of PCCW Global, said: “When we set out along this journey, it was our goal to launch a platform that would enable multi-dimensional automation for the betterment of the industry. Now we are embarking on the next stage of this process by creating a truly open platform that will facilitate settlement among every ICT Service Provider, including carriers and cloud providers for all forms of ICT traffic.”
The CBN participants
The participants expect the CBN to go live in 2019. Governance will be via a collaborative structure. Several carriers have already agreed to support the establishment of the platform, including:
- A1 Telekom Austria
- China Telecom Global
- Colt Technology Services
- Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier
- PCCW Global
- Tata Communications
These have all agreed agreed to collaborate to ensure this blockchain-based settlement mechanism becomes a reality. The GLF is also inviting every ICT Service Provider to join the CBN without needing to satisfy any specific prerequisites.
The already-signed up technology providers
The CBN will will have many technology partners as it:
- develops the reference architecture
- supports the creation of an open ecosystem for both ICT Service Providers and technology vendors.
Already ten technology providers have confirmed support for the platform and their intention to participate in its development. These include:
- Clear Blockchain Technologies
- CSG ( and its wholesale business, Difitek)
- Internet Mobile Communications
There is an expectation that more will sign up in due course.
Rolf Nafziger, SVP of Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, said: “Smart contracts and blockchain have a huge potential not only to simplify and automate complex inter-carrier billing/settlement processes but also to handle the complexity added by new services like NB-IoT, VoLTE, etc.
“To avoid fragmentation, it is very important that we move and work together as an industry. We therefore highly welcome and actively support the GLF initiative of an interoperable carrier blockchain network.”
The potential impact
Underlying the CBN is the belief that Blockchain (a.k.a as distributed ledger technology or DLT), can provide significant benefits which will transform inter-service provider settlement processes by enabling automation and improving security. Not only can DLT-based automation facilitate inter-carrier settlement of traditional traffic but it will enable new types of traffic plus underpin network and service innovation and cost savings.
The objective for the platform, and the collaborative industry-wide governance framework, is to serve the wider ICT community by:
- avoiding fragmentation
- accelerating the adoption of automated settlement applications.
The new environment will seek development of open-source standards and APIs. These will:
- enable service-provider interoperability of DLT-enabled services
- manage critical infrastructure elements of the platform.
Louisa Gregory, leading the GLF working group on blockchain and Chief of Staff of Colt, said: “For the past 14 months the GLF and its partners have been putting rigour and processes behind this platform and we believe that now is the time to launch. The blockchain-based ecosystem has been tested with resounding success at every stage, and we believe that this platform signals nothing less than the future of ICT financial settlement.”
The ITW Global Leaders’ Forum
The ITW Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF) is a global network of leaders from the world’s largest International Carriers. They convene to discuss strategic issues and agree collaborative activities – with the aim of upholding interoperability and ubiquitous international and technological coverage. The GLF’s primary objective is to provide leadership and direction for the telco industry by advocating common priorities which:
- may prevent or at least inhibit network fragmentation
- improve interconnectivity
- enable new digital services can be delivered at scale anywhere in the world.
The self-proclaimed mission of the GLF is, therefore, to be “the voice of the global carrier industry providing leadership and direction to interconnect the digital world”. This encapsulates the ultimate aim of the GLF, and its members, which is to enable consumers and enterprises to communicate and transact for any service or application, on any device and any infrastructure, in any geography, thus enabling the globalisation of business and the closure of the digital divide. The International Carrier industry is a critical part of the global ecosystem. It provides a backbone to enable digital services distribution around the world.
Jussi Makela, Director of GLF said: “From very early on, the GLF recognised the importance of the right governance structure to provide certainty to the whole industry that the platform will be open, inclusive, independent and conducive of innovation. We are confident we have the right framework in place and we are excited to welcome every ICT Service Provider to participate in the development of the platform.”
Enterprise Times: what does this mean
Is this the genesis of the ultimate talking-shop? This is probably the key question, given the range of telco participants (though they include none of the US majors) and blockchain vendors. On the one hand, modern wireless technologies were baked by the GSMA, another potential talking shop that eventually delivered. On the other hand, too many cooks and overboil the broth.
Evidence of the relevance of the latter point is the range of blockchain vendors. For example, IBM and R3 offer permissioned blockchain while Orbs represents the hybrid/permissionless. There is much potential for hot air, conflicting objectives and few results.
Yet the CBN has the potential to address a real problem, inter-carrier settlement. If it only delivers this it will have succeeded for today’s inter-carrier settlement processes are rarely automated. Watch the CBM space to see what, if anything, happens.