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IBM looking to work with Indian telecom firms to offer blockchain solutions
TT Correspondent |  |  12 Dec 2018

International Business Machines (IBM) is looking to work with Indian telecom firms to offer blockchain solutions that can be used in mobile number portability (MNP) and ‘Do Not Call’ (DNC) registries.

“We have completed proof of concepts and pilots with all the major telecom providers and with Trai in this space,” said Sriram Raghavan, vice president of IBM Research. “We anticipate that, going into the New Year, we’ll start to see blockchain solutions getting rolled out.” He did not name the telecom companies.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and telecom providers have been working with tech firms such as IBM to know how blockchain could address issues of coordination among multiple parties with respect to Do Not Call registries and number portability. Everything from customer consent for the DNC service to whether the consent is respected is recorded on blockchain, Raghavan said.

“This gives Trai, as a regulator, more visibility and spot malfeasance quickly,” he said. “Mobile number portability, too, is a multi-party process involving a minimum of two telecom providers where blockchain can play a role.”

Trai had completed a review of the proof of concepts on blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (DLT) in February. After evaluating what was possible with DLT, the regulator came out with a set of regulations in May. The next step in this process is for the telecom service providers to select IT vendors and set up the syconstems in accordance with the Trai guidelines.

“We had a meeting (on Monday) and the telecom service providers are now in the process of aligning their vendors,” a Trai official said. The companies have promised to roll out DLT-based systems in the next couple of months, the person said. The Do Not Call registry would be the first to move towards DLT. Blockchain, first emerged as the system underpinning the popular cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a digitally distributed collection of records where every person or entity on the network has a copy of the ledger. All participants have to agree to make any change.

But unlike public blockchain networks like bitcoin, IBM and other enterprises use private blockchain networks which are aimed at enabling sharing of sensitive business data among trusted parties. One way to think about that is, “a private network involves a set of people and public network is out there where anybody can join”, said Raghavan. “You can also have public permissioned networks. Here, the network is done in the public, but you just can’t download a code to join it. You have to be permissioned. Sometimes these two dimensions get confused.”

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