Blockchain tech has started to become a crucial part of the telecom industry with the onset of next-gen technologies like 5G. The latest development around blockchain in telecom comes from three of the industry leaders – Spain’s Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, and UK provider Vodafone. The three have collaborated to finalize a trial blockchain solution to streamline commercial roaming processes between mobile operators.
The process of calculating inter-carrier payments is a complicated one. A telecom operator needs to record minutes spent by a customer on a roaming network, reconcile the data with its roaming partner and then execute the payments.
To streamline this process, the telecom giants are leveraging blockchain technology. The solution is being developed on settlement and clearing blockchain platform Clear, to reduce capital costs for operators, support faster revenue recognition, and provide an efficient settlement system for inter-company deals and workflows.
Prior to this, Telefónica Innovation Ventures and the Telekom Innovation Pool of Deutsche Telekom had supported the startup in developing its settlement system in a $13 million Series A investment for Clear earlier this year.
The finalized trial was conducted throughout 2019 for the automated settlement of roaming data and it enabled the telecom operators to obtain yearly settlement results “within minutes” while having real-time and multi-party insight into data discrepancies. The system also allowed providers to update or amend data on the system instantly.
Johannes Opitz, vice president of commercial roaming services at Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, discussed the advantages of using this blockchain-powered solution, stating:
“Roaming discount agreement reconciliation is a complex, costly process prone to errors […] Using Clear’s solution, operators will now have the ability to transact seamlessly with an ecosystem of partners — a crucial ability in the 5G and Edge ecosystem, in which we foresee significant growth of operators’ business relationships and business models.”
Clear notes that its solution can expand far beyond streamlining Roaming data, claiming it is just one aspect of its solution. The solution can be leveraged in other telecom projects like reducing settlement time for international voice traffic, a framework for on-demand-services like 5G, and combating fraud.
“There is a huge amount of potential for blockchain to automate many of the industry’s manual processes, delivering significant benefits for companies and their customers,” said Eran Haggiag, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Clear.
The CEO of Vodafone Roaming Services, Sherif Bakir, similarly tied the system to the future roadmap for telecoms infrastructure, noting that:
“With new, more complex technologies like 5G and IoT being introduced, even more radical innovation in roaming will take digitalization to the next level. Vodafone believes blockchain is the solution, and its use will lay the foundation for further sustained innovation. Clear’s solution is a solid demonstration of blockchain’s benefits.”
Prior history with Blockchain
This isn’t the only venture with blockchain tech for these operators. As previously reported by The Daily Chain, Vodafone collaborated with the blockchain non-profit Energy Web to improve the integration of renewable and distributed energy assets within power grids using Vodafone’s SIM technology and Energy Web’s blockchain-based operating system.
Telefonica recently announced that it was developing a blockchain network for technology parks in Spain. Telefonica was part of an earlier Proof of Concept with Clear where it trialed an inter-carrier settlement blockchain project along with other operators including British Telecom and Telstra.