Meeting Recap: Blockchain

Author: Telecom Council Staff

DSC_0194Blockchain is a hot technology coming out of the Fintech sector, but is increasingly interesting for telcos. Telcos are curious about how they could play a role as a service provider in Blockchain, but also how they could use it for security. Our Roundtable panel discussed what Blockchain is, and how it could apply to telecom.

Panel moderator Shriram Natarajan, CTO at Persistent, started out by explaining that Blockchain is not the same as Bitcoin, although the two emerged together. Bitcoin is a new currency, and blockchain is the secured public ledger system that tracks who holds how much Bitcoin. Therefore, blockchain could equally be used as a secure public ledger in any application.  There is no limit to the number of blockchains. They can be purpose-specific, public, or private.

Abraham Kang, Director of the MPS Lab at Samsung, further explained how Blockchain works, as a distributed ledger where all transactions are stored in distributed copies. Every transaction is time-stamped and ¬†appended to the blockchain is done as a block that is linked to the previous block. The distributed copies are held by various node stakeholders, miners, and volunteers. All nodes should reflect the same “chain” of transactions, and in the case of any discrepancies, the majority consensus is considered accurate.

Our discussion found a few ways blockchain could apply to telecom, but also limitations that would reduce its usefulness.

Ideas:

  • Carriers could provide reliable nodes in a private blockchain, as a service
  • Carriers could provide low-latency service to assist blockchain in keeping up to date distributed ledgers
  • Carriers could use blockchain to enable micro transactions (with live contracts)
  • Carriers could use blockchain to manage and clear roaming (or peering) interpayments

Limits:

  • The blockchains grow, and never crop old data. This has scalability issues.
  • Blockchains are not invulnerable. A person who controls a majority of nodes can alter the accepted ledger.
  • Blockchains require many nodes to be updated in the same order, so latency is a problem.
  • Blockchain has limited numbers of transactions it can handle per minute.

It was a great discussion, with a lot of questions and comments from the audience as well as our panel. Thanks to our panelists and guests.

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