We explore the Catalyst demonstrating how a CSP-specific blockchain architecture can improve operational and transactional processes to build a settlement data system with high credibility suitable for the 5G era.
Blockchain partner settlement: combining open source, AI and blockchain to grow the 5G ecosystem
Settlements between CSPs are a notoriously complex affair, which can incur considerable costs for parties on both sides of the transaction. Settlement processes are complex, often lacking transparency and openness, which can cause severe operational and maintenance pressures. There are frequently technical barriers between operators and partners, so both internal and external data flows are suboptimal – often resulting in data islands – and the risks of data leakage can hinder cooperation between parties. Settlement rules change often, and associated documents are cumbersome – while reconciliations are often manual and offline, using non-transparent, cleartext datasets, meaning inherent problems around security and trust.
The challenges are numerous, and some are fundamental: How can the settlement needs of each party be identified quickly and simply? How can a stable, easy-to-use, and above all reliable settlement environment be established? And how can a suitably efficient operation system be achieved so that all parties can enjoy cost reduction? These challenges will only become more pressing with 5G’s ongoing rollout worldwide. Almost everything will be connected in the 5G era, requiring ubiquitous complex settlements wherever we look. Today’s settlement systems will therefore need to deal with far more settlement objects in far more dimensions – even while settlement partners are faced with sharp revenue declines due to the pandemic, meaning they urgently need to achieve operational cost reductions for the revitalization and sustainable development of their businesses.
There remains, however, no unified settlement chain value network. How then can we build a trustable settlement transaction system between operators and partners, transform the traditional transaction mode, realize secure online transactions, and develop new intelligent operation modes to facilitate them cost-effectively? The 5G era, then, brings with it an increasing need for bespoke, secure, transparent settlement transactions between CSPs and their partners – which also help them avoid the overheads associated with traditional settlements. CSPs and their partners need a new settlement capability enabling complete business settlement of any type, supporting vertical or horizontal development of settlement operations, and thereby enhancing the efficiency of 5G’s business ecosystem.
Delivering on this goal is the aim of the Blockchain partner settlement Catalyst: by using TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) and Open APIs, this project shows how a CSP-specific blockchain architecture can improve operational and transactional processes to build a settlement data system with the high credibility needed in the 5G era. Settlement conditions and payment rules can be flexibly configured through factor sets, settlement templates can be configured and managed, and the payment coefficient is adjustable. The access party provides organization and host information, binds the key and certificate to the new node, then the new organization joins the genesis block and executes the transaction.
The settlement chain is based on smart contracts, which encrypts settlement data, public parameters, and rules on the chain. It provides settlement information security sharing, exchange of encrypted billing data, automatic reconciliation, data confirmation and settlement services for settlement parties, so transaction processes can be traced back in real time. This ensures transparency of the settlement process, improving security and credibility while reducing latency and risk, and ultimately enhancing both trust and OpEx savings amongst parties.
Ya Yang, Senior Product Manager at China Mobile, explains that “the underlying blockchain can be adapted to more applications in future, and made compatible with a wider range of business scenarios – it could therefore realize digital intelligent operations between operators and vertical industry partners, thereby replacing existing manual operation modes, optimizing business operation processes, and improving operational efficiency.” The ultimate aim is to provide a new model for establishing equal, controllable, and credible business cooperation in the telecommunications industry – and, beyond that, to create a blockchain technology application ecosystem among CSPs’ industry customers.
Inter-CPS settlements are complex and expensive – blockchain-based smart contracts are the answer to ensure transparency, trust and cost-efficiency