Indian Telcos Bet On Blockchain

For a long time, Blockchain has created quite the buzz in international markets. It is a technology based on a digital ledger system for storing data, including financial transactions. The technology decentralises information, which is held in a shared database that can be accessed in real time.

Recently the technology has been gaining momentum in India. The big shot telecommunication companies of India, including the likes of Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance, are considering the utilization of blockchain-based platforms as they move towards a model that aims to create novel revenue streams and lower the current operational costs amid pressure on revenue and margins. 

Leading the race is Vodafone India, which has already proceeded to the proof of concept (PoC) stage with blockchain technology, working in collaboration with IBM. Airtel, on the other hand, is currently involved in initial trials. Ambani’s giant venture Reliance Jio has set up an engineering team for the blockchain project, with the goal of developing new use-cases and applications.

“There are 15-16 PoCs going on with various companies. Jio is also using startup accelerator Jio-GenNext to bring blockchain-related startups on board for development,” said an anonymous source on the inside.

IBM is working with most of these companies to develop the platforms, and they estimate their commercial product launches within a year. “A majority of the [telecom] market is actively in discussions. PoCs have been done to give comfort to the platform and for the intended business outcome. We would be surprised if it’s not in 2018,” Jitan Chandanani, blockchain leader at IBM, told The Economic Times India.

“Almost all telcos in India are actively seeking ways and means to deploy blockchain for various usecases. Telcos, being at the centre of the digital revolution, are going to be key movers and shakers in making blockchain pervasive across the landscape,” said Vishal Awal, telco leader at IBM.

Although there has been speculation that Jio is planning its own cryptocurrency, JioCoin, for now the assumption is that no Indian companies will be looking at introducing cryptocurrencies using the blockchain technology, as the executives said.