By Chrisaman Sood, Product Manager, Optiva • July 11, 2022
Chris is a wanderer by heart and a geek with technology. He has 20 years of experience in telecom, including Solution Architecture, Customer Engagement, and Product Management. He has three patents and is exploring blockchain as a technology to solve real-world problems. In his free time, he is a hardcore artist pursuing professional photography, creating digital NFTs, playing acoustic guitar, and learning traditional flute. Chris helps drive the customer experience journey for Optiva products.
5G changes the status quo for the telecommunications industry. It is not just about bandwidth. It is about creating new experiences that can be delivered to end customers and enterprises by communication service providers (CSPs).
The internet of things will make our lives more interesting and easier in the future — be it a mixed reality metaverse or holographic world, V2X vehicle, or smart hospital. A boom in 5G services means faster networks at a huge cost to telecom service providers. Moreover, with billions of connected devices, the speed of 5G growth warrants automation.
Blockchain can help CSPs grow rapidly and in a secure, automated, decentralized manner. The possibilities with blockchain are bountiful, and it is a hot topic among the scientific community. With its cryptographic algorithm and consensus mechanism, there are many ways in which blockchain can support the future vision for telecom. For example, a 5G network, especially for security aspects like identity and access management, can be managed on a private blockchain in a highly secure manner.
Additionally, blockchain can enhance monetization and automation as new 5G use cases unfold. It can help reduce costs and automate networks across their three main layers to expand CSPs’ monetization capabilities.
A Decentralized And Crowdsourced Radio Network — The Radio Layer
One of the most interesting and disruptive use cases that can be built based on blockchain lies with its radio layer. CSPs can grow their radio networks rapidly through the decentralized networks that can be enabled by blockchain technology.
3G and 4G networks, for example, are based on base stations, antennas, and repeaters for connectivity. These are the size of the large cell towers you may have in your neighborhood. Those who work on the ground in radio planning know that finding the perfect spot, installing a base station, and maintaining it, including the space and power requirements, are marathon logistical tasks for CSPs.
Unlike 3G and 4G, 5G radio networks will be based on small cells, including femto cells, which are about the size of your favorite book and can sit in a small corner of your house. A small cell costs approximately US$10,000 and a femtocell US$100.
By using the blockchain radio layer, CSPs can crowdsource small cells and femtocells from end users, who can buy the pre-requisite equipment as an investment, request to join the CSP’s consensus-based blockchain network, and become part of the CSP’s radio network. This is similar to private citizens generating electric energy and loading it onto their area’s power grid. It can allow end users to generate passive income by contributing to the success of the CSP’s network.
Blockchain can empower this new world. It provides secure registration with CSPs through smart contracts and end-user payments via crypto tokens. The smart contracts can be SLA based, and the power and space overhead costs become the end user’s responsibility.
Similar to how the solar panels of consumers or prosumers, people who both consume and produce energy, generate excess energy that can be exported to a power grid in exchange for credits — a small home femto cell might help pay end users’ bills in the future. Moreover, this scenario enables a green footprint and decentralized communications. To support this, the blockchain needs to be a private or semi-private one that is permission based. Hyperledger fabric or any other private blockchain can provide such solutions.
Network Slice Brokering With Smart Contracts — The Core Layer
Everybody is betting that network slicing will be an in-demand commodity in future — even to the point that a customized network slice would be rare. So at the core layer, CSPs will offer network slices to verticals, enterprises, and industries. This is the layer where a network slice broker mechanism can use 5G to execute block contracts for dynamic network resource trading between network operators and multiple tenants/verticals.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is discussing a bidding mechanism for network slices in which vertical industries can participate. This would be similar to how Google provides bidding on keywords and AdWords, which are basic needs for discovery in the internet world. Likewise, imagine how a blockchain-based mechanism can enable dynamic slice resource trading and negotiation between network operators, resource providers, multiple tenants, and verticals. Enhanced with machine learning, network slice brokering will also be used to forecast, allocate, and optimize use of network resources and slicing without over or underutilizing them.
For network slice brokering, blockchain technology is a perfect match. Blockchain, by its nature, will allow all members of the network to be aware of current (and past) network resource availability. Furthermore, members can be informed, in real-time, about the dynamic exchange of resources through a public or semi-private hash-chain of blocks, which are provided with valid transactions. As a result, a smart contract-based resource exchange could be used to evolve autonomously and securely without the involvement of centralized authorities.
Smart Contract-Based Partner Settlement — The Business Layer
The Web 3.0 and future internet is going to be a world of collaborations. The new business models of B2B2X will be the pillars that generate revenue for CSPs, verticals, and partners. 5G will bring hundreds of partners and collaborations to CSPs’ doorsteps. But unless partner onboarding, billing settlements, etc., are automated in a secure and trusteless mechanism, the dream of 5G will be incomplete. As such partnerships become more common, it will be imperative to register them on the blockchain in a secure manner. This will enable big and small partners alike to obtain access to CSPs’ network assets.
As the world of communications evolves, so do the ways in which CSPs can generate revenue. Blockchain is one area that has potential to help CSPs automate their networks and generate new sources of revenue. With so many potential applications, it is clear that blockchain technology holds great promise for the future of the telecom industry.
At Optiva, we help CSPs monetise and create new use cases and business models to grow their revenue. Additionally, we use new 5G network capabilities to expand our customers’ reach. Optiva is exploring blockchain technology to further enable operators on their 5G journey, adding value and benefits while enhancing security, transparency, data reliability, trustworthiness, and immutability in distributed network and distributed partnership models.
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Product Manager, Optiva
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