Innovation in Practice: Blockchain in Monetization
Nokia Digital Business is taking the 5G Economy head on, where Blockchain is a powerful enabler for Monetization
Bitcoin. Ethereum. Quantum Ledger... No matter the form, Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) have certainly grabbed our attention.
Since its first implementation in 2009 for cryptocurrency, Blockchain has become more and more of a mainstay in our lives, from how our medical data is shared to how the royalties of our favorite musicians are tracked on Spotify. Why, you may ask? The catalyst is quite simple - more transparency and fairness while also saving businesses time and money.
We thought transparency, fairness, and saving time and money, would all serve our customers well, and after a thorough strategic analysis, ultimately identified 3 Blockchain opportunities relevant for Monetization and our Digital Business portfolio:
- High Frequency Charging (HFC)
- Partner Settlement Marketplace
- Digital Payments
1. High Frequency Charging (HFC)
High Frequency Charging (HFC) is an innovation derived from increasing demand for edge cloud-based services. As 5G matures across the globe, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) must support massive data volumes, low latency (<1ms), and ultra-reliable capabilities to provide high-end services to their customers. Although existing distributed architecture schemes might seem market-ready to some, our analysis revealed many remaining challenges in security, integrity, auditability and stability. In line with our “5G economy fundamentals” (see below), we are working toward implementing DLT (the technology powering blockchain & smart contracts) within our marquis monetization offering, Nokia Converged Charging (NCC).
Charging is expected to continue evolving toward a distributed model where the charging function (CHF) is deployed closer to the end user in new components within multiple edge clouds (eCHF) supporting the real-time processing of charging events at massive scale without service disruption and depredation. Distributed ledgers enable the storage and processing of transactions with consensus-based validation between the ledgers (minimally between the edge cloud instance and core) so that any transaction can be accessed without a single point of failure. DLT allows for the elements of auditable, immutable and encrypted transaction logs that increase transparency, security and accountability.
Here the charging capabilities (eCHF) are instantiated together with services and applications on the edge node to enable high-volume low-latency performance. The distributed ledger is used to store all transactions that occur in this ecosystem, taking all monetization models into account, with charging occurring either in real-time or deferred in the cases of specified requirements (e.g. ultra low latency <1 ms).
2. Partner settlement marketplace
Roaming settlement is ripe for disruption via blockchain as well. CSPs spend $2-3b per year on roaming related IT, operations, data clearing and settlement, representing 3% of the $70b global roaming market. In addition, large CSPs often demand an annual roaming revenue guarantee of up to $500k, acting as a barrier to entry in global roaming for smaller CSPs and MVNOs. Blockchain has the potential to disrupt by reducing these middlemen and enabling better partnerships through automating trust. As this market adoption is still in its early stages, a clear winner has yet to emerge.
Blockchain-enabled Partner Settlement Marketplaces can bring several benefits to CSPs, including:
- Seamless onboarding of partners via “smart contracts”
- Real-time settlement between partners with token/crypto currency
- Faster dispute resolutions through clear transaction history logs
- Significant cost savings by removing/reducing middlemen
Roaming settlement also applies to the Internet of Things (IoT), as many Enterprises operate distributed fleets spread across multiple countries. While each device may consume a low volume of data, the aggregate across that fleet is often high. These companies care about the total volume of data consumed and would rather depend on a single provider for global connectivity and the coverage they need – with as few bills as possible.
We envision a roaming settlement marketplace solution with immutable, transparent, and cryptographically verifiable roaming data & transaction logs that are shared within a network of nodes. Within this marketplace, CSPs can publish roaming “offers” as smart contracts, visible to other CSPs.
This approach also applies to larger partner ecosystems, as CSPs have continued to expand their B2C service offerings via partnerships with OTTs and other players. Further, CSPs are increasingly investing in digital sub-brands that bring together such partner ecosystems with multiple value propositions and offerings within a single application. Managing these ecosystems requires advanced partner relationship management and settlement capabilities with seamless onboarding and an overall frictionless partner experience.
3. Digital payments
Blockchain is also highly relevant of course in digital payments and crypto currencies, where we envision consumers sending some of their data allowance, minutes or other “assets” of existing prepaid plans to friends or family members through a person-to-person blockchain network. This eliminates (or significantly reduces) the costs of existing 3rd party services, such as those of TransferTo, Airpocket and so on. Imagine that in the process of validating these transactions, consumers and other entities (think blockchain miners) could earn additional value in exchange for providing some of their computer processing capacity into the transaction validation process. Many blockchain enabled cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, include this element of mining where the network of nodes verifies all transactions in a highly secure manner.
Even going a step further, consider the scenario where consumers are able to exchange some of their data allowance, voice or other assets (think earned points) from their existing prepaid plans into a crypto/token currency, through the CSP’s blockchain based service. They can use these crypto assets to “purchase” new services of their choice across the CSPs wider partner ecosystem. This further empowers consumers through the use of interchangeable value assets, representing the flexibility that customers will expect as we move further into the 5G Economy.