How blockchain can unlock new monetisation opportunities for your telco business.

Utsav Burman, Vodafone, Monique J. Morrow, Syniverse, and Shamit Bhat, GSMA, outline blockchain’s key role in the digital transformation of our industry.

Distributed Ledger Technology (more commonly called blockchain) can give the telco industry its most exciting business opportunities over the coming years. Which is why GSMA has set up a working group dedicated to this technology, to help bring its potential to life for operators.

Called the GSMA Distributed Ledger Technology group (DLT group), it aims to streamline existing inter-operator processes and unlock new monetisation opportunities for the future. By fulfilling GSMA’s shared industry vision for blockchain. Namely, to globally interconnect operators, vendors, and partners who recognise blockchain as an ecosystem play and a key driver for building a shared economy model. If done correctly, this can lead to lower costs and a superior experience for all ecosystem players.

Not only that, but telco blockchain revenue is touted to be 1.8bn USD by 2024, thanks to the creation of this shared economy by the operator community. Therefore, it makes sense to invest time and effort in making this projection a reality.

Read on to discover more about the blockchain shared economy, the work already done by operators in this area and how to get involved.

Blockchain shared economy

Blockchain presents the opportunity for the telecom industry to create a marketplace of all ecosystem players. Bringing together operators, partners, and vendors into a trusted environment where buyers and sellers are in equal control. How? Since the technology brings forth a trust model, so information can be recorded in an immutable, transparent, and secure way, removing the need for third-party trust intermediaries.

Then, in turn, this shared economy enables a plethora of new services, supported by secure, immutable, and distributed trust models. Leading to more efficient processes and more cost-effective business.

How blockchain is key to the telecom industry’s digital transformation

The telecom industry continues to reinvent its revenue and operations model. From selling fixed lines communications, to bundled mobile phone voice and SMS packages, through to data bundles today. While the internet made global digital connectivity a key building block for various consumer services. Today, the telecom industry has moved to a digital service enabler model, particularly with the 5G architecture.

This is where blockchain comes in. With the ability to play a big role in this digital transformation, by enabling the shared economy through its immutable, transparent, and secure nature.

What are the key blockchain big-ticket items within this transformation?

Below are some areas of considerable potential within the telecom industry:

  • Self-sovereign identity, using Identity as a service model for people and devices. Resulting in new revenue streams in roaming, fraud prevention, and device life-cycle tracking
  • Network provisioning, using smart contracts for 5G network slices & IoT devices. Enabling faster connectivity
  • Automated end-to-end roaming settlements in real-time, enabling cost efficiencies
  • Data sharing use cases – RAN data sharing, IPX information sharing, and cross-border roaming handover scenario
  • Global decentralised marketplace to bid for or ask to sell/buy unused network capacity. Resulting in better network resource utilisation
  • Blockchain as a Service Provider – the evolution of third-party trust intermediaries and operators to enable various B2B and B2C use cases
  • Infrastructure as a Service Model – where partners may come together to use shared network infrastructure

But is blockchain just another fad?

To answer this, it’s important to understand the evolution of the internet. For a start, Web1.0 was the period of the 90s when static websites were built. Here, one party published information on a web page, and all could read it. Although the user could not interact. With Web2.0 in the early 2000s, users started to interact on web applications. For instance, emails, Facebook, and Twitter.

Now with Web3.0, users can exchange assets and value over the internet in a decentralised manner. Users will now be able to ascertain a value to their data/unique digital identity and have a greater choice of service providers with whom to share their digital identity. Not only that, but they can receive and exchange such digital assets, typically in a value token form. So, this is where blockchain can play a key role as a common building block. Therefore, it will be fundamental to how we use the internet in the future, and not just a fad.

Where is the industry in its blockchain journey?

Operators have been experimenting with blockchain technology for quite a few years. Specifically, through various trials on multiple different use cases, such as wholesale roaming clearing and settlement, IoT supply chain, and identity. In fact, wholesale roaming clearing and settlement has been a key focus area for operators. Since experimentation started with multiple Proof of Concepts (PoCs), leading to the creation of the Blockchain for Wholesale Roaming (BWR) initiative, pushing this use case close to commercialisation. Related standards are being discussed in the GSMA DLT group. Moreover, many different use cases continue to be experimented upon. Such as supply chain management, tokenisation of 5G network slices, RAN data sharing and IPX information sharing.

What’s the GSMA DLT group remit and focus?

The GSMA Distributed Ledger Technology working group is one of the newest, created to establish blockchain standards across use cases. Notably, it aids the development of common building blocks for any blockchain implementation, through reduced entry barriers and standardised execution. To support this, the group maintains GSMA DLT open-source software, which is available through GitHub for all interested users.

Additionally, it’s responsible for executing the GSMA and industry vision of a shared economy model. By building these standards and bringing together eco-system players towards a common understanding.

Who can participate?

All GSMA members are welcome to participate in the DLT group. Although the open-source software is accessible for all, regardless of membership.

Its work so far

  • The GSMA-DLT Group is now formed under AA.35
  • Completion of activity integrations that allow for fluid discussions on what needs to be standardised
  • Namely, the Blockchain Wholesale Roaming Group (BWR) is integrated into the DLT Business Group as a workstream. The BWR Technical Group has been integrated into the DLT Technical team.
  • While the BWR Governance Group has been integrated into the DLT Governance and Policy Subgroup.
  • Furthermore, Open-Source code is to be accessible to GSMA members and third parties under Apache 2.0 Licensing terms.
  • The BWR MVP Report is complete and BWR has a chair, Shahar Steiff from PCCW Global.

The following diagram depicts the overall GSMA-DLT organisation:

Finally, DLT-group launched the GSMA-DLT Speaker series, inviting industry leaders to present use cases that amplify business opportunities. Markedly, the tenet of the GSMA-DLT has always been “80% Business and 20% Technical.”

So, this year, the group looks forward to mobile operators presenting their innovative examples of how the DLT can create further business opportunities in the industry.

What’s planned for 2022?

Collaborating with GSMA-Security to assess and address any blockchain vulnerabilities is work in progress. Similarly, scoping of BWR implementation standards are underway. In addition, other areas that the GSMA-DLT Group is considering include inter-operator payments, IoT, Identity, and establishing steps for achieving DLT interoperability.

How to get involved

You can help enable the industry vision for blockchain and a shared economic model that will bring many benefits for everyone in the ecosystem. Therefore, the GSMA DLT group leadership is very keen to invite you to participate in our group activities, so we can further develop the common building blocks for the industry in this exciting area.

For more details, please send us an email at