The ITW Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF), which is a network of leaders from the world’s largest wholesale carriers, announced Monday the launch of a blockchain-based platform. Known as the Communications Blockchain Network (CBN), this will revolutionize the ICT Service Provider industry’s commercial settlement infrastructure, representing an opportunity worth billions to the global industry.
The CBN is expected to go live in the coming months and will be governed by a collaborative, industry-wide framework. Currently, 11 carriers have agreed 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, Telefonica, Telstra and TNZI.
Additionally, the GLF is partnering with leading technology providers to develop the reference architecture and support the creation of an open, interoperable ecosystem for both ICT Service Providers and technology vendors. Over ten technology providers have already confirmed support for the platform, including IBM, Orbs, ConsenSys, R3, Amartus, Clear Blockchain Technologies, CSG and their Wholesale business, Difitek, Internet Mobile Communications, Subex, Syniverse, and TOMIA.
A diverse mixture of blockchain technologies can provide significant benefits that will transform inter-service provider settlement processes by enabling automation and improving security. This will also help build consensus and create a global framework.
The Communications Blockchain Network will first create a framework using a collaboration of various technology and business vendors, which is why they have included multiple providers. This also allows consensus to be built. When the network is live, the telecom and IT carriers can then choose specific vendors they are comfortable working with. Initially, this will be a collaborative framework, which will help build consensus, along with a global infrastructure,” Utpal Mangla, vice president and partner for IBM Global Business Services, told me
The overall objective for the CBN is to serve the wider ICT community by avoiding fragmentation. This will accelerate the adoption of automated settlement applications, while facilitating the development of open-source standards and APIs that enable service-provider interoperability.
For the past fourteen months the GLF and its partners have been putting rigor and processes behind this platform and we believe that now is the time to launch. The blockchain-based ecosystem has been tested with resounding success at every stage, and we believe that this platform signals nothing less than the future of ICT financial settlement,” said Louisa Gregory, Chief of Staff of Colt who also leads the GLF working group on blockchain.
A Unique Mixture of Permissioned and Permissionless Blockchains
While an impressive list of telecom carriers will govern the CBN, the technology providers developing the platform are equally as notable, yet also very diverse. In terms of the technology being built, having providers specializing in permissioned and permissionless blockchains for enterprises, which include IBM, Orbs, ConsenSys and R3, makes this project distinctive.
Orbs, for example, is a public blockchain infrastructure designed specifically for enterprises. The platform is unique in the sense that it is designed to bring the full value of permissionless infrastructure to enterprise business.
Orbs is very different from IBM, ConsenSys and R3. We are not a private and permissioned blockchain, but rather public and permissionless. The fact that there is potential for public blockchain for enterprise use cases is a huge win for the entire market,” said Tal Kol, co-founder of Orbs. "We were able to convince the GLF that there is substantial value in a public blockchain for enterprises. Our solution was built for enterprise and can facilitate such consortiums while having external, non-dependence, provably unbiased third-party verification, where anyone can audit. Also, Orbs is the only infrastructure provider not represented by a system integrator, meaning anyone can build on top of it.”
On the other hand, IBM is a private, permissioned blockchain network that operates on Hyperledger Fabric. In a recent Forbes article, IBM points out that The Hyperledger Project, operated under The Linux Foundation, is a “greenhouse” for growing enterprise-grade blockchain software with strong and diverse code contributors.
IBM brings a combination of a blockchain platform and services into this mix. We are the only company that has over 500 implementations of blockchain projects worldwide. The IBM blockchain provides security, provenance and transparency, which is critical for a global settlement platform. Also, we have critical consortiums we have built worldwide, including IBM Food Trust and the World Wire Network, and this settlement platform would fall along those lines,” said Mangla.
In addition to IBM and Orbs, ConsenSys allows enterprises to operate on the Ethereum blockchain. According to Dr. Andreas Freund, a technology leader at ConsenSys, their solution will specifically help with transactions and participant identification.
ConsenSys can design and develop multiple-DLT solutions as evidenced by our successful execution and support of over 50 Blockchain/DLT projects operating globally. In particular for this project, we propose solutions for the "transaction orchestration layer," and decentralized identities for participants in the network, solutions that have already been deployed successfully on Ethereum, and can integrate with other DLTs."
While it’s clear that the telecommunications industry is intent on leveraging blockchain use cases across its supply chains and networks, having multiple blockchain providers demonstrates how the telecom industry will focus on different blockchain solutions to solve various problems. Yet only time will tell how everything plays out, and if permission and permissionless blockchain networks can indeed work together in harmony.
“Now that the technology partners have been chosen, the next step is for everyone to start collaborating and outline use cases in greater detail to see where each infrastructure is applicable. We then need to build standards to get these to work together,” noted Kol from Orbs.
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