According to a report by the Economic Times, top telcos Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Reliance Jio Infocomm are evaluating the deployment of blockchain technology-based platforms as they look to create new revenue streams and lower operational costs amid pressure on revenue and margins.
Vodafone India is already at the proof of concept (PoC) stage with blockchain technology, working with IBM, while Sunil Mittal-led Airtel is currently involved in initial trials, people familiar with the matter said.
Mukesh Ambani-led Jio has set up an engineering team to work on blockchain technology with the goal of developing new use-cases and applications.
“There are 15-16 PoCs going on with various companies. Jio is also using startup accelerator Jio-GenNext to bring blockchain-related startups on board for development,” says he same report.
Blockchain, which came into prominence with the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, is a digital ledger for storing data including financial transactions. The technology decentralises information, which is held in a shared database that can be accessed in real time. Telcos can use blockchain in areas like data and content monetisation and number portability.
IBM, which is working with telcos to develop blockchain-based platforms, expects the first commercial deployments to take place this year. “A majority of the (telecom) market is actively in discussions. PoCs have been done to give comfort to the platform and for the intended business outcome. We would be surprised if it’s not in 2018,” Jitan Chandanani, blockchain leader at IBM.
“Almost all telcos in India are actively seeking ways and means to deploy blockchain for various use cases. Telcos, being at the centre of the digital revolution, are going to be key movers and shakers in making blockchain pervasive across the landscape,” said Vishal Awal, telco leader at IBM. Awal said blockchain is primarily being seen as a platform that enables the creation of the successful business networks.
However, not a single telco is looking at introducing cryptocurrency using the blockchain technology in the country. There has been speculation that Jio is planning its own cryptocurrency, JioCoin.
“In the conversation that we are having as a company across telcos, governments and industry, cryptocurrency barely even comes up,” Chandanani said.
Blockchain can help telcos in mobile number portability. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, in its recent consultation paper on reviewing the mobile number portability process, suggested blockchain solutions as one of the options that can benefit telecom management systems.