Blockchain has now hit the mainstream, generating a great deal of hype for its uses in supporting the cryptocurrency boom. The telco industry has taken notice, keen to realise the benefits it can bring to areas such as capacity planning, identity management and quality of service.
But as a foundational technology, it’s not something that carriers, with their remarkably complex network infrastructures, can just switch into. It involves a great deal of time and planning, with considerations like security, scalability, and cost, into account before taking the leap.
As such, while banks and insurers plough ahead with blockchain deployments, telcos have rightly been cautious about taking the plunge. Yet as more and more proof of concepts emerge, this is likely to change quickly.
A fine mess
Contract management is one area where we’ll see blockchain come into its own for the telco industry. As things stand, it can be a significant challenge for wholesale carriers as they don’t own the entire customer journey.
For example, a carrier might have a global bank as a customer, which has a network of more than 20 different countries. This bank will sign a global agreement with a CSP or CSP supplier, which would then partner with various local carriers to make sure services are delivered in regions where the CSP doesn’t have a presence. Along the way, a myriad of different agreements and SLAs are required at each stage, making the whole process extremely complicated.
When a customer complains about connectivity, the wholesale carrier needs to confirm when and where the problem happened, and which stakeholder is at fault. Historically this required the carrier to get its partners to integrate data feeds into the carrier’s stack, before creating a platform to analyse the data to find out what happened.
This is a very convoluted and resource-intensive process, and it doesn’t always give the carrier a complete view of the issue, leaving the customer frustrated. Moreover, when we consider that a breach of an SLA can cost the carrier hundreds of millions of pounds, this information black hole is a huge business risk.
Keeping it simple
Blockchain has the answer to this dilemma, bringing transparency to this ecosystem by enabling all parties to contribute and share information. Whether it’s network engagement or billing/operational support, each partner, supplier, and customer involved in that customer engagement can feed their respective information into the blockchain.
As blockchain is a transparent distributed ledger, each stakeholder can update their thread in real-time with the agreed information and only worry about their piece of the puzzle. The carrier can then pull together all this data and apply analytics to derive meaningful insights.
This means that the moment an outage happens on a partner network, everyone is aware instantly. So if a customer complains about their network going down, every stakeholder knows exactly what’s going on, since the data that customers and partners all feed into the chain makes the whole process much more transparent.
This transparency is mutually beneficial and can protect businesses against any ‘passing the buck’ scenarios, as everything is right there in plain sight. Not only that, but this visibility also enables carriers to identify and fix problems more quickly, so they are more likely to stay within the terms of their SLA. All of this helps wholesalers offer better services and connectivity than ever before.
In today’s customer-driven environment, quality of service matters more than ever. But while it’s an increasingly important differentiator for wholesalers, visibility is often a challenge when it comes to issue identification and resolution. Yet by using blockchain, underpinned with analytics, wholesale operators can now gain a complete view of their network performance, giving them the ability to quickly identify any issues and address their root causes at faster speeds, ensuring continuity of service on a global scale.
Ultimately, more efficient, cheaper networks lead to more satisfied customers – and that’s where telcos will really notice the impact on revenue.
By Ravi Palepu, Global Head, Telco Solutions, Virtusa