AT&T jumps into blockchain with offerings for enterprise customers

AT&T announced a suite of blockchain-based services designed to help its enterprise customers cut costs and speed automation processes.

By creating virtual ledgers, enterprises will be able to track and manage information across various parties in a value chain. Blockchain, which was developed for bitcoin, is a digitized, distributed ledger that tracks transactions as statements of facts that can be used in a digital economy by businesses, regulators, operators and consumers.

Blockchain creates a shared ecosystem across parties to exchange information in a way that grants permission and is highly secure. AT&T has paired its blockchain offerings with its edge-to-edge capabilities to get the services closer to the end users.

AT&T also said it was using its internet of things (IoT) solutions to add automation into the blockchain services while also providing monitoring capabilities.

AT&T is working with IBM and Microsoft Azure's blockchain technologies. Currently operating live blockchain networks at scale, IBM Blockchain supports a broad range of industry use cases including supply chain, provenance and logistics. AT&T said it was also integrating its AT&T Asset Management Operations Center with IBM Maximo Network on Blockchain and Maximo Asset Health Insights to create secure and accountable service provider networks for infrastructure asset management.

Microsoft Azure supports a wide range of enterprise ledger protocols including Ethereum, HyperLedger Fabric, Corda, Quorum and Chain, and offers topologies for dev/test, single member and multimember consortiums. AT&T said the integration of its IoT platforms would bring additional transparency and accountability to complex supply chains. 

The verticals AT&T is initially targeting for its blockchain technologies include manufacturing, retail and healthcare.

"Blockchain is far more than just Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. It's transforming the way many companies conduct business," said Andy Daudelin, vice president for alliances business development, AT&T Business, in a prepared statement. "Blockchain improves security and enables better management of transactions through complex processes."

According to GlobalData, blockchain is a $1 billion opportunity for telecommunications companies. BT, Colt, HGC Global, Telefonica and Telstra are involved in a trial that uses blockchain for wholesale settlement while Verizon is an investor in Filament, a blockchain firm that eventually could help the carrier handle payment for drone delivery and monitoring services.

RELATED: Telcos will thrive in blockchain—if they try: report

Last month, CBCcom, PCCW Global, Sparkle, Tata Communications, Clear Blockchain Technologies and Cataworx announced a blockchain proof of concept trial.

In a previous interview with FierceTelecom, Colt's Mirko Voltolini, head of network on demand, outlined some of his company's blockchain initiatives.

"We're looking at the automation of processes using blockchain," he said. "In the world of wholesale carriers you have a lot of multi party interactions so we did a proof-of-concept to proof financial settlement for voice minutes between carriers.

"We have a few activities running in this space that I would consider part of automation. So we're looking at automating service delivery, automating service assurance, the automation of our processes. I think we're looking at blockchain as the technology that can help us achieve those."