Global Mobile Operators and GSMA Team up to Build Blockchain to Transform Back-office Roaming

GSMA today declares commercial readiness of the “GSMA eBusiness Network“, a new private-permissioned industry-wide blockchain network. The first suite of GSMA applications hosted on the network aims to transform the wholesale roaming clearing and settlement process. The network has the potential to support a wide range of operator business requirements.

The move follows almost four years of collaborative research between GSMA and six global mobile operator groups who were the founding members of the Blockchain for Wholesale Roaming (BWR) initiative convened by the GSMA. Together with GSMA, the six operators – Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, CK Hutchison, Orange, Telefónica, Verizon, and Vodafone – consolidated several successful proof of concept trials using blockchain technology into a minimum viable product (MVP). The effort successfully delivered an open-source blockchain solution that automates the operations of the wholesale roaming settlement process.

This solution informs the GSMA eBusiness Network and its suite of wholesale roaming service applications. These new GSMA roaming services have the potential to ensure faster, more transparent, accurate and secure roaming operations for global mobile operators. They will also safeguard underlying processes, including clearing, rating, charging, and settlement for improved revenue assurance. These GSMA services were developed independently of the BWR effort. Characterised by openness and transparency, GSMA roaming services are aligned with BWR’s open-source principles and specifications, particularly realising a multi-party, multi-vendor, and ledger-agnostic environment on the GSMA eBusiness Network.

“The combination of increasing international data flows and momentum around 5G and IoT create a natural impetus to overhaul existing wholesale roaming practices. Harnessing the potential of blockchain to automate processes and mitigate inefficiencies is a crucial step towards strengthening the global mobile ecosystem and enhancing inter-operator connectivity,” said Alex Sinclair, CTO, GSMA.

Innovating Together

Collaboration has been central to the development of the BWR MVP solution, concluded in May 2021. During this process, the BWR participants and GSMA focused on technical, governance and functional aspects of the blockchain solution, along with detailed requirements and architecture definitions, software development and testing.

“The work during the BWR initiative is a testament to the power of industry-wide collaboration despite the challenges of the pandemic. It’s an exciting opportunity to create distributed trust between operators and enable the automation of complex business processes. The benefits we identified during development were encouraging: swifter exchanging of information, securing roaming wholesale discount agreements, agreeing transactions and settlement fees built on the immutable features of blockchain was impressive,” said the operators who took part in the BWR initiative.

The Bigger Business Picture

The GSMA eBusiness Network is built on Hyperledger Fabric, a distributed ledger technology. It has the potential to support secure and transparent inter-operator settlements through decentralised applications and facilitate the digital transformation of wholesale roaming by improving operational efficiency, cutting costs, and mitigating errors and disputes.

Anticipating the success of the BWR MVP development effort, in December 2020, GSMA selected Mobileum, a leading provider of analytics-driven technology solutions, as the technology partner to develop a commercial-grade industrywide blockchain network. Now GSMA is working with the operator community and their ecosystem partners to onboard them to the network.

Mr Sinclair continued, “Legacy wholesale roaming clearing and settlement exchange technology is complex, which is why blockchain technology is ideally suited to this application. Longer-term, the solution will allow operators to focus all their efforts on improving value and service for subscribers, rather than losing time managing disputes and rectifying errors. Through the GSMA eBusiness Network, operators will have access to a system capable of automating business processes that will become ever more complex as we enter an era of connectivity defined by 5G and IoT.”

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