IBM has also completed proofs of concepts or PoCs for the blockchain-based platforms with these leading telcos in the country. “A majority of the 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 (commercial deployment) in 2018,” Jitan Chandanani, Blockchain leader at IBM, told ET.
Vishal Awal, telco leader at IBM said that the blockchain technology is primarily being seen as a platform that enables the creation of the successful business network.
“Almost all telcos in India are actively seeking ways and means to deploy blockchain for various use cases. We are optimistic, telcos being at the center of digital revolution, is going to be a key mover and shaker in making blockchain pervasive across the landscape,” Atwal said, adding that blockchain could be a humongous play within telco landscape for the company in India.
“The industry is undergoing massive disruption. Telcos have compelling and urgent need to reinvent and transform themselves into digital service providers and digital service enablers,” he said.
Among all use cases, not a single telco is looking at introducing cryptocurrency using the blockchain technology in the country.
“The success of bitcoins and cryptocurrencies accelerated the curiosity around the Blockchain technology. As a result, a lot of people are trying to replicate that success story. The conversation that we are having as a company across telcos, governments, and industry, cryptocurrency barely even comes up,” Chandanani said.
The blockchain is a digital ledger for storing data including, financial transactions. The technology decentralizes information without it being copied. The information is held on blockchain through a shared database which can be accessed on a real-time basis. This database is not stored on physical servers but on the cloud, which makes it easy to store unlimited data.
Blockchain technology, according to IBM executives, offers a bigger opportunity to telcos in terms of data and content monetization, which they can do by creating a media platform using blockchain technology to directly connect content creators and cut off intermediaries to bring down costs.
Currently, the global market for blockchain is about $400-$500 million and is expected to grow beyond $6-$7 billion in next 3-4 years.
“Data and content monetization is a big use case. There is an urgent need to solve this equation of cost vs revenue for telcos. Data use is exponentially increasing, and network capacity is being augmented, but it is not leading to an exponential increase in revenue, which is not sustainable going forward. With right kind of analytics, cognitive capability and blockchain-enabled ecosystem play, telcos can tap a lot of value,” Awal said.
Furthermore, telcos can themselves use the technology for functions like supply chain management wherein intermediaries can be eliminated to bring down costs and transparency. “Supply chain management is a humongous use case for telcos. Every telco we have spoken to say that this is an area which requires an action,” Chandanani, said.
Blockchain can help Indian telcos in the areas of mobile number portability, and unsolicited communication. “MNP is a big thing in India, the churn rate in the prepaid domain is phenomenal, and while doing that customers would like transparency and speed of porting, which can be introduced by blockchain,” Awal said.