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AT&T, Vodafone and T-Mobile: blockchain use cases emerging from communication service providers

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Blockchain holds promise as an enabler for service providers for a wide range of internal and external (customer-facing) use cases, ranging from Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile device security, to payments, supply chain management, asset tracking and logistics.

Retail, manufacturing and healthcare companies are the most likely industries to take advantage of these capabilities, but there are many companies that can benefit from the secure trusted ledgers enabled by blockchain, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

While AT&T launched a blockchain service portfolio back in 2018 targeting enterprise customers, few other operators have launched blockchain offerings until recently. GlobalData is now seeing mobile operators such as Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone starting to use blockchain for an array of unique capabilities. 

Verizon plans to use the technology for mobile security by setting up a ledger for vSIM encryption, which is significant as operators look to replace physical SIMs with virtual ones that provide flexibility. By using a blockchain for vSIM management it becomes much harder to carry out a SIM-swap attack because the rightful owner of the SIM controls the private key that authenticates the updating of data on the blockchain. 

Kathryn Weldon, Research Director at GlobalData, explains: “Verizon should investigate the ability to use the secure vSIM blockchain for new offerings that could include different wireless plans for different devices, or the ability to offer value-added services for particular devices. The multi-operator vSIM could also be used as a way to help customers roam easily when traveling. As security for vSIMs is a differentiator, the operator should also use the new patent to fortify its positioning by offering a higher level of security than competitors as it transitions customers to vSIMs.”

Deutsche Telekom’s T-Systems subsidiary recently announced the launch of the German Blockchain Ecosystem (GBE), a marketplace for blockchain services. The first product in the marketplace will be a Validator as a Service solution, which allows cross-company processes to be reliably and securely checked and processed via a blockchain infrastructure. T-Systems will also empower small businesses to take advantage of blockchain through a managed service. Vodafone is revamping its business processes leveraging a new IBM program called Trust Your Supplier to automate and speed the supplier validation process. 

Weldon adds: “T-Systems should note that before its marketplace is available it will need to have signed up a sizeable number of partners, application providers and beta reference customers. The idea is a good one but it needs a large number of marketplace participants to gain momentum and credibility. The initiative may have a positive effect on the ecosystem and make it easier for customers to source solutions. The new marketplace may also pave the way for other operators and help accelerate the use of blockchain in IoT applications and payments as well as supply chain management.”

GlobalData also notes that Vodafone benefits by partnering with IBM, which has made significant investments into blockchain. IBM’s newest initiative has gained momentum through prominent partners. It will need to continue this momentum in 2020 to stay ahead of global SI rival offerings. GlobalData also expects to see other operators following suit, launching blockchain services to business customers, while also using the technology internally to add security and process optimization. Consulting, integration, and managed blockchain services on behalf of business customers will eventually become a source of new revenue.

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