IBM and Telefónica are working to use blockchain technology as part of the operator’s service delivery platform. This includes handling register data and information from different sources for business and network processes.
The collaboration will initially use IBM’s Blockchain Platform to improve reliability and transparency of information collected by different networks when routing international calls. Operators involved in the routing of those calls will have permissioned access to a decentralized platform housing that information. That will provide access to real-time tracing of calls to allow for correct billing processes between operators.
The companies also noted the platform could be used to build a secure network for the delivery of digital services. This would include data usage, authentication, cloud computing, and data storage.
That first project has already been tested in a lab environment running on the IBM Blockchain infrastructure in the cloud.
A Telefónica spokesperson noted in an email that the carrier was also deploying “an own-managed environment mixing all the available options.” This is allowing the carrier to deploy a blockchain network with nodes running public cloud services, Telefónica applications, and third-party sites.
“This is key in order to allow other players – other operators, carriers, or service providers – to join the network with no restrictions regarding the hardware platform,” the spokesperson added.
The carrier will begin deploying the new trust layer embedded in the network by the middle of 2019.
Telefónica earlier this year joined the Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG). The CBSG began last year when Japan’s SoftBank and its U.S. subsidiary Sprint formed a partnership with Silicon Valley-based TBCASoft, which had a blockchain platform. The goal was to develop a consortium-based blockchain technology specifically for carriers that allowed for secured clearing and settlement, personal authentication, and IoT applications.
“Blockchain will allow operators to generate a new layer of confidence in the internet based not on the players that generate the data and the transactions but on the data itself,” noted Telefónica CIO Gonzalo Martín-Villa in a statement tied to the IBM deal.
IBM in July rolled out a managed blockchain platform for the financial services industry. Nine banks, including Barclays and Citi, were participating in the proof of concept (PoC) of the platform.
In a blockchain distributed database, every digital transaction is agreed to by a consensus of the participants. The transaction is then time-stamped and becomes a block in a chain of blocks. All transactions are signed and replicated across the network. If a change is made in one copy of a block, all the other copies are simultaneously updated. Thus, the blockchain contains a true record of each transaction ever made. And it’s virtually impossible to hack.
In a telecom network environment, all of the immutable records of transactions that take place across that network can be placed in basically a secured shared folder. Operators, vendors, and application providers would then be allowed permission access to that information.
This construction makes blockchain an appealing candidate for digital financial transactions. And carriers are taking notice.
Deutsche Telekom announced in June that it was working with SAP on a blockchain application to prevent thieves from accessing data on stolen phones. Those plans were similar to what the Mobile Authentication Taskforce is looking to do through collaboration with all four of the largest operators in the U.S.
A Research and Markets report predicts blockchain telecom projects will grow from $46.6 million in investments this year to nearly $1 billion in investments by 2023.