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Telcos test blockchain to help with roaming worries

Inside Telecom Staff

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Telcos test

Telcos companies Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and T-Mobile US are testing as to whether blockchain could be used to create and sign inter-operator roaming discount contracts.

The current system requires the agreements to be drafted, signed and then implemented by hand. The main idea of this project is that by using blockchain, the process will become automated.

The reason why blockchain could be useful in this situation – apart from automation offered by smart contracts – is due to its role as a neutral and non-partial intermediary, which is trusted by both parties. Blockchain authenticates both parties and facilitates the transfer – of either information or money – between the two, without either side having to put their faith into the other.

This innovative development provides a new layer of trust, as the agreed-upon terms cannot be subsequently changed or tampered with,” said Deutsche Telekom. “In addition, it allows a holistic, analytic view of agreements, enabling further automation of the roaming wholesale workflow in the future, for example settlement processes between operators.

There are of course, alternative ways to do this, however blockchain doesn’t need the same degree of administration that a normal middleman does, so it is expected to offer high efficiency at much lower costs.

Cost and efficiency is an increasingly critical issue to roaming.

The introduction of offers such as roam like at home and the abolishment of roaming fees in the EU, have resulted in decreasing international revenue. In 2019, Juniper research predicted that, overall roaming revenue will remain flat at $51 billion per year for the next four years. This is despite a continuous rise in the number of international travelers.

Also, roaming is becoming a much more complex concept, as telcos are looking to offer a broader range of cross-border IoT services delivered by various access technologies, such as LTE-M and NB-IoT. Businesses cannot be expected to pay expensive roaming fees to collect data from potentially hundreds of sensors that are attached to assets being shipped to or passing through other countries.

Furthermore, the cross-border IoT marker is predicted to become much more competitive due to the emergence of satellite IoT. Several players are in the process of deploying small satellite constellations that will offer global coverage in remote areas. An example of this is Sklo, who plan to deploy NB-IoT connectivity at low cost, using satellites that are already in orbit.

Consequently, there is pressure on telcos companies to simplify their roaming processes and this is where the blockchain should come in to play.

The inter-operator workflow in roaming has been basically unchanged for the last 20 years,” said Rolf Nafziger, SVP of Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, in a statement.

In the near future however, new services like NB-IoT, LTE-M or VoLTE and other quality-based services will drastically increase the complexity of inter-operator discount agreements and respective settlements,” he said. “This blockchain-based solution is the start of automating sections of our workflow. It will put us in a position to handle the additional complexity while increasing overall efficiency.” The system was developed by T-Labs, but Deutsche Telekom said plans are underway to open-source the code, making it free-to-use by other telcos.

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Feature Articles

Industry 4.0 – Digital risk and evolving technologies

Inside Telecom Staff

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Industry 4.0 Digital risk

Industry 4.0 – Also known as the 4th industrial revolution, is a leap into everything digital. It embraces a new industrial revolution through intelligent and self-reliant technologies. Its aim is to connect the digital world with the physical one and phase out any boundaries between the two. With the support of connectivity it is a mix of progress in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, 3D printing, quantum computing and numerous other technologies.

The idea is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the previous ones. However, there are two factors which make it significantly unique.

• The rate of change is exponential.

• The substantially expanded scope disrupts all industry sectors and impacts them deeply.

Industry 4.0’s real opportunity is not simply technology or change that comes from technology, it is unlocking the full potential of digitalisation and harnessing it to impact society positively. To make the most of opportunities that come from Industry 4.0, companies need to integrate new digital technologies and capabilities into their business processes and policies. This is known as digital transformation. Businesses and societies tend to go through this once every decade, but this is on a new level entirely.

Something that has increased with each transformation is that of digital risk, meaning the risk that is associated with digital business processes. Digital risk is not just a technological problem, but a fundamental business concern too. Knowing how to manage such risks means a better understanding of what causes it.

Those organisations that were founded before the rise of all that is digital are chasing digital maturity. In this pursuit, they are engaging with digital transformation and once the company acquires this and integrates it, they are considered digitally mature. Digital maturity does not mean getting to the end, it means constantly evolving with the new opportunities that technology brings – now, more rapidly than ever. An organization’s failure to do this, can result in stagnation, which will inevitably prevent the advancement of business processes and more importantly, revenue.

Digital maturating is concerned with the integration of a company’s operations and human capital into digital processes.

According to MIT, digital transformation is “about how technology changes the conditions under which business is done, in ways that change the expectations of customers, partners and employees.” And although the majority of organizations are on the journey to digital maturity, no one has reached that point yet. The reason being, digital transformation requires a massive overhaul to see and implement the technology in the core of the organisation. It needs all of the appropriate technology, but this is just the first phase of such a process.  

Managing the issue and ever-evolving threat of cybersecurity is considered one of industry 4.0’s most imperative challenges to overcome. The digitization that comes with the transformation increases a business’s susceptibility to cyberattacks – protecting a vast range of connected platforms, networks, hardware and software is becoming increasingly difficult.

The development of a company’s digital surface is an automatic increase digital risk and thus explains why cyber security is vital for all organisations. It is the protection of today’s commodity against theft unauthorized access and any online abuse.

The right amount of attention needs to be given to both cybersecurity and digital risk and it should be included in company’s strategy and road map. Cyberattacks have gone up substantially as those that understand the power are able to misuse data for various purposes such as financial or political gain. 

Any digital transformation path begins with a strategy that incorporates cybersecurity components that are necessary to ensure that risk is managed accordingly.

Companies also need to assess risk beyond traditional risk and security. Organisations should have clarity and understand their digital footprint, creating methods to measure and record digital risk. One example of this is social media platforms, which many businesses have adopted as a means of marketing. Social media comes with its own set of digital risk that can impact company brand and reputation.

Business strategy should include necessities like detection and response functions but also focus on prevention. However, with all the prevention efforts in the world, unexpected events can still occur.

Digital transformation is critical for sectors to stay both competitive and relevant. Finding and incorporating new ways to adopt digital processes can open numerous opportunities but it is important to use these opportunities in a safe and secure way by including cybersecurity as part of your transformation program.

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Batelco’s same-day home delivery service to aid social distancing

Inside Telecom Staff

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Same-day home delivery service

Batelco, the trading name for Bahrain Telecommunication Company BSC, has recently announced the release of same-day home delivery, doing its part in the fight against the pandemic. The Bahraini company wants to ensure the health and safety of its customers by bringing their services to their doorstep, further aiding necessary social distancing measures.

Batelco has introduced the service to allow their customers to ensure all their mobile and internet needs are being met from the safety and comfort of their homes. These services include prepaid refills, package upgrades, bill payments, and device deliveries. Additionally, there will be efforts by the company to help spread information and limit misinformation for the benefit of the Bahraini citizens through their networks, which include 3G and 4G services. Such measures have become commonplace among telcos as they use their access to deliver vital information quickly and extensively.

Batelco App and batelco.com, two of the company’s support channels, as well as WhatsApp Sales and LiveChat, will include quick links for convenient completion of transactions and will be taking orders for both services and devices. Using the same-day home delivery, orders placed before 11am will be delivered on the same day, whereas anything after that will be scheduled for the next day using the company’s own fleet of branded vehicles.

The company is taking precautionary measures with its home delivery service in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidelines. Limiting the number of deliveries in a given location, sanitization of products delivered, and proper cleaning by staff are all actions that go a long way to ensuring safety. Additionally, the company will be answering customers’ inquiries through their official 24/7 call center. A detailed animated video will be released soon on social media channels, to inform customers about the same-day home delivery service. According to a Batelco statement, “We care about our customers and this is our way of staying in touch with them by ensuring their needs are accommodated at this extraordinary time,”

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How COVID-19 has impacted tech supply and demand

Inside Telecom Staff

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Supply and demand

Almost every part of the shopping experience has been affected by the current pandemic – both online and offline. In some cases, supply has actually stayed the same as warehouse workers continue to ship products as normal.

What is different, is how people are spending their time. Millions are self-isolating and for many, work life has shifted from office to home. People around the world are now facing weeks or months with plenty of time on their hands. This has led to many online shoppers purchasing items or products they would not usually buy. Much the same as panic buying, demand for products is now overtaking supply, and inevitably, this is causing shortages of products as well as bandwidth for online services.

The Nintendo switch has hiked up its prices in the last week and has now sold out in numerous online stores. Other consoles are also in the same situation with stores seeing much higher prices. The Xbox One S is now proving difficult to find.

The likes of Amazon continue to treat urgent deliveries as a priority which is having an effect on sellers who have been put at the back of the queue. This means that for customers, even prime-eligible deliveries are now taking up to a week to arrive. In the United Kingdom, products like the Kindle usually take a day to arrive, now it’s taking up to five.

The company has also announced more changes to its delivery process in a statement to customers:

“As long as your order does not require an ID check, our drivers will no longer knock or ring the bell on delivery. They will leave your order on your doorstep or if you have a safe location you would prefer your order to be placed, you can leave delivery instructions for the driver when you place your order. If you live in a location that requires gate access, our drivers will continue to buzz for entry however they will no longer knock or ring the bell at your doorstep. Once the delivery has been completed, you will receive a notification via email and/or in the app. Please remember to immediately refrigerate or freeze any frozen and chilled items in your order. If your order requires an ID check, our driver will knock on your door or ring your doorbell, leave your order on your doorstep, step back and carry out the ID check at a distance. If your order requires an ID check and there is no answer at the door or by phone, the driver will take your order back with them.”

In the last few weeks we have seen Netflix, Disney and YouTube reduce their quality in streaming so that they are able to cope with the heightened demand. Microsoft has endured substantial issues on its servers with a 775% increase in team calling/remote meetings. This surge may slow down, much like the one in the supermarkets, where stock levels are now almost back to normal after being ransacked by worried buyers for the last few weeks. Some supermarkets have even announced that they will lift restrictions on items that were previously limited as a means to prevent panic buying. The lesson to learn from this is not to pay too much for your gadgets. The chances are supply and demand on these products will return to normal.

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