The telecommunications industry has changed dramatically in recent years, with the proliferation of new technologies such as 5G, IoT, and cloud computing. These developments have enabled telecom operators to offer new services and products that were previously impossible or impractical.
However, these advancements also bring new challenges such as data privacy and security concerns, and the need for more efficient and transparent processes. This is where blockchain comes into the equation and offers a potential solution to help address some of the telecoms industry’s most pressing issues, namely through distributed networks, smart contracts and non-fungible tokens.
Distributed networks for IoT device connectivity
As of 2021, it’s estimated that there are over 35 billion IoT devices worldwide, and this number is projected to reach 75 billion by 2025, according to a report by Statista. This growth is being driven by a variety of factors, including the increasing availability of low-cost sensors and connectivity, the rise of cloud computing, and the growing demand for automation and data-driven decision making in various industries.
However, there are three key problems with current IoT networks: security issues, centralisation, and a lack of standardisation and interoperability, leading to fragmentation in the IoT ecosystem. One solution is to decentralise the network and allow for peer-to-peer communication through the individual devices as a distributed network.
Distributed networks, where devices are connected to each other in a peer-to-peer manner, provides a decentralised infrastructure for devices to communicate with each other and with the cloud. This enables greater resilience than centralised networks, as there is no single point of failure that can bring down the entire network. By leveraging the power of distributed networks, IoT devices can be more secure and efficient.
Smart-contracts for digital identity verification
The current process of digital identity verification suffers from several issues, including: cost, complexity, vulnerability to data breaches and hacking attacks and privacy issues with having to disclose sensitive personal information.
Smart contracts can be used to provide a secure, decentralised, and transparent way of verifying identity information. Users would submit their identity information to the smart contract, which gets stored on a blockchain. The smart contract would then use various verification methods such as biometric data, government-issued IDs, and social media profiles.
Following verification, the smart contract would generate a digital identity certificate that can be stored on the blockchain. This certificate can be presented as proof of identity and service providers can use the unique identifier to authenticate it, without having to collect and store any sensitive personal information.
Smart contracts can also provide additional security and privacy features, such as MFA and encryption, to ensure only authorised parties can access user information. By eliminating the need for intermediaries like verification services or regulators, smart contracts can also reduce costs.
Overall, smart contracts offer a more secure, decentralised, and transparent way of verifying identity information, while also enhancing user privacy and control over their personal information and negating the need for businesses to collect and store customers’ private data.
A decentralised marketplace of digital telecommunications
Since 2019 the deployment of 5G networks within the UK has been progressing, with EE becoming the first network provider to reach the 50% coverage mark in 2022. However, this progress to achieving ubiquitous 5G connectivity has been slower than originally anticipated.
The key obstacle is high infrastructure costs associated with installing the assets that house the network equipment onto the streets. To cut costs, many providers have been installing their network equipment on publicly owned street assets such as street lamps, bus shelters, traffic lights, CCTV poles that are managed and controlled by various public bodies.
However, there are a number of challenges with this approach: poor visibility of assets, a lack of accurate data to understand suitability and ownership, and a lack of standardised commercial processes for procurement of the assets
Through digitising these assets, we can allow infrastructure providers to gain access and build networks faster. Enabling the exchange of telecom assets on a decentralised platform can help the market become more efficient as buyers and sellers can directly connect with each other, cutting out intermediaries and reducing transaction costs. This can result in increased access to telecoms assets for smaller players, creating more opportunities for innovation and competition.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to digitise assets
NFTs can be used to provide a unique identification and ownership record for digital assets traded on a decentralised marketplace. This can provide greater transparency and authenticity, as buyers and sellers can verify the ownership and history of the assets, enabling automated transactions and smart contracts for a seamless exchange of digital assets.
Each public asset can be assigned its own NFT, which is designated to its owner and will be transferable to buyers according to the terms of trade that are set, e.g. renting out a street lightning post for 12 months to a network provider at £50 per month.
This innovative solution not only makes the process of renting public assets frictionless for network providers, but enables local authorities an opportunity to utilise their assets to open up new incremental revenue streams and lower their total cost of ownership.
In conclusion, the telecoms industry can greatly benefit from the adoption of blockchain technology, as it offers new opportunities for improved security, increased efficiency, and enhanced transparency. By implementing blockchain-based solutions, the industry can unlock new levels of innovation and growth, creating new revenue streams and improving services for consumers. As the technology continues to evolve and mature, we can expect to see even more use cases emerge, driving further advancements and adoption in the telecoms industry and beyond.
Alexander Cooper is the Project Delivery Lead at Weaver Labs