Global Leaders Forum preps for launch of blockchain platform

The ITW Global Leaders Forum (GLF) announced on Monday that it is launching a blockchain platform to improve inter-service provider settlements.

The Communications Blockchain Network (CBN), which is expected to go live in the coming months, will be governed by a collaborative structure. Several carriers have already signed up to support the establishment of the platform including A1 Telekom Austria, China Telecom Global, Colt Technology Services, Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, IDT, Orange, PCCW Global, Tata Communications, Telefónica, Telstra and TNZI The GLF is also inviting every ICT service provider to join the CBN without any prerequisite.

The GLF is also announced that it will partner with leading technology providers to develop the reference architecture and support the creation of an open ecosystem for both ICT service providers and technology vendors. Over 10 technology providers have already confirmed their support for the platform and their intention to participate in its development, including Amartus, Clear Blockchain Technologies, ConsenSys, CSG and their Wholesale business, Difitek, IBM, Internet Mobile Communications, Orbs, R3, Subex, Syniverse, and TOMIA, with more to be announced.

The goal of the CBN platform is to create a collaborative, industry-wide framework to avoid fragmentation and help push the adoption of automated settlement applications. The new platform will drive the development of open-source standards and APIs that enable service-provider interoperability of DLT-enabled services, and manage critical infrastructure elements.

“When we set out along this journey, it was our goal to launch a platform that would enable multi-dimensional automation for the betterment of the industry," said PCCW CEO and GLF Chairman Marc Halbfinger, in a prepared statement. "Now we are embarking on the next stage of this process by creating a truly open platform that will facilitate settlement among every ICT service provider, including carriers and cloud providers for all forms of ICT traffic.”

Today's news is further confirmation that the telecommunications industry is intent on leveraging blockchain use cases across its supply chains and networks. GLF previously conducted proof of concept (POC) trials across the telecommunications industry in order to figure out how carriers could settle wholesale voice minutes by using blockchain technologies.

Over the past year, the POCs progressed from using test data, to live data, to then incorporating several carriers across a multi-lateral trial. In October, the multi-lateral trial was the first step towards creating a "frictionless" settlement process across the telecommunications sector. In that trial, Colt, PCCW Global, BT, Orange, Telefónica and Telstra demonstrated the viability of a platform that could settle voice transactions between multiple carriers in minutes rather than hours.

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 growing lists of records, called blocks, that are linked together with cryptography. By design, the data from a blockchain cannot be modified. It is an open distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties in an efficient and secure manner.

RELATED: ETSI launches blockchain industry group

By creating virtual ledgers, enterprises and service providers are able to track and manage information across various parties in a value chain.

There were several blockchain proof-of-concept demonstrations at last year's MEF18 conference in Los Angeles. During his keynote address at MEF18, MEF CTO Pascal Menezes said blockchain was on MEF's road map.

In 2015, the Linux Foundation announced the formation of its Hyperledger open-source umbrella organization, which included support from IBM, Intel and SAP. It remains to be seen whether the Linux Foundation, MEF and ETSI will work together on blockchain tools, applications and services.

In September, AT&T announced it was working with Microsoft and IBM on a suite of blockchain-based services that are designed to help its enterprise customers cut costs and speed automation processes.

BT, Colt, HGC Global, Telefónica and Telstra are involved in a trial that uses blockchain for wholesale settlement, while Verizon is an investor in Filament, a blockchain company that could eventually help the carrier handle payment for drone delivery and monitoring services.

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