Telco blockchain trial deemed a success, more partners wanted

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jul 13, 2020

© Flickr/CC-licence/401(k)

© Flickr/CC-licence/401(k)

  • Blockchain applied to telco ‘reconciliation of roaming discount agreements’
  • After a trial announced earlier this year Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Vodafone are confident it works are and looking for more partners
  • Opens up new opportunities as telcos move from isolation to collaboration

One important advantage to becoming (or aiming at becoming) a digital service provider, is that networks plus artificial intelligence plus automation should squeeze costs out of the telco business in multiple surprising ways.

For instance, becoming a properly digital service provider should have a major impact on inter-telco commerce costs - the settlements telcos make with each other when they exchange traffic, or services such as roaming. 

These activities all generate what we used to call ‘paper’ work. Mountains of it. And while the ‘paper’ curve may have flattened to nothing, the underlying billing complexity (often captured in huge spreadsheets) has not. 

As a result small armies of people can still be seen labouring away at, say, “reconciliation of roaming discount agreements”. Meanwhile more areas of potential collaboration - and complexity - between operators are on the horizon. Payments for the use of ‘edge’ services including IoT data, for instance.

What could be done to slicken the whole area up?

There has been much interest in applying blockchain distributed ledger technology to securely automate inter-telco processes and Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Vodafone think they’ve made a good stab at ‘roaming discount agreement reconciliation’ using a solution developed by blockchain-based settlement company Clear.

Back in February this year, a trio of operators (DT, Orange and Vodafone) announced the first automated settlement trial to see whether a blockchain could be used to generate and sign inter-operator roaming discount agreements. (See - Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica hope blockchain will ease roaming headaches).  

Operator benefits, it’s claimed, include an ability to obtain yearly settlement results in minutes instead of hours, uncovering data discrepancies visible to both sides in real-time, and the ability to update or correct data instantaneously. That translates into faster revenue recognition, lower capital costs, and higher speed and efficiency, they claim. 

Now a slightly different telco line-up - Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone - have announced the trial a success and want to maximise the efficiency by getting some extra partners into the tent to open up the scope for a “proliferation of business partnerships that will help to provide new services.”

In the interests of ‘onboarding’ more operators Clear is offering free installation and an extended trial until the end of 2020. Operators who join can examine the platform as a first step to building the new partnerships needed for 5G, Edge computing, and IoT ecosystems, it claims. 

According to Johannes Opitz, Vice President Commercial Roaming Services at Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, “Roaming discount agreement reconciliation is a complex, costly process prone to errors. Having an automated system that can not only solve this problem, but avoid it altogether, opens up a world of possibilities for telecom companies, as we move from isolation to collaboration. 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.” 

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