Network

Complementing network automation with Blockchain

Dealing with some of the high volume transactional elements of the telecoms business, especially in wholesale, has long been the domain of the spreadsheet jockey. Anyone who works in the industry knows that automation is still some ways off touching all aspects of the business.

The development of interconnection standards is helping streamline the process of two disparate systems talking to each other. But there are other emerging technologies that are revealing themselves as complementary to telecoms standardization.

Divesh Gupta, Vice President  Technology and Sales operations, PCCW Global, said Blockchain is one of these technologies - complementing the work done on the MEF’s LSO  Sonata API. The LSO Sonata API standardization is a key initiative being conducted within the context of the MEF 3.0 Global Services Framework and is part of a broader effort to standardize multiple sets of APIs enabling service automation across multiple providers and over multiple network technology domains.

Standards have not reached all aspects of the network lifecycle

Yet, due to their nature, standards move slower than both technological development and real-time business need, which is where Blockchain has moved in to fill a gap within billing and settlement assurance.

Sonata is a key element of on-demand networking, such as that offered by Console Connect, but most of the work to date has been on the provisioning of connections.

“The Sonata API covers a lot of aspects from ordering to billing, but so far is mostly limited to getting a quote and getting an order,” said Gupta, “but it has not yet touched upon billing or settlement assurance.

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“Blockchain for billing and settlement and service assurance is more complex because now we’re talking automated networks. We can change parameters within the contract itself, which is highly relevant for inter-carrier settlements.”

Blockchain is highly relevant for inter-carrier settlements

Gupta said that PCCW Global is using the distributed ledger technology (DLT) of the Ethereum blockchain for completely automated billing and settlement between carriers.

“Here we utilize the unique Console Connect SDI capability, with ordering automated using the Sonata API.  The ordering transaction itself is recorded on the Corda R3 ledger. And we are using Corda Blockchain technology to record smart contracts between participating carriers, and inter-carrier service level parameters are captured in real-time compared with typical predefined SLAs. And as per the bilateral smart contract, performance is set in real-time.”

This demonstrates the use of Blockchain in providing a high level of service assurance to end customers while delivering a fully automated service on a multi-carrier global backbone.

The standards have not yet been set up so they could encompass the whole of lifecycle orchestration. The MEF defines LSO as kind of a framework that includes everything. But that doesn't mean that the standards for all of activities between networks are ready, Gupta said.

Standards-based APIs make it easier for networks to quickly on-board third-party APIs on to their digital platform and make even more products and services available to end-customers by making the process less cumbersome and tedious. But there is still plenty of room for innovation beyond standardization.

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