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IBM joins TBCASoft, SoftBank consortium for blockchain mobile payments


Yesterday, TBCASoft, IBM and SoftBank announced a partnership to develop cross-carrier blockchain solutions for telecom companies. The trio aims to enable carriers to leverage distributed ledger technology (DLT) through the Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG) Consortium, co-founded in 2017 by TBCASoft, Sprint and SoftBank.

CBSG has developed the DLT-based Cross-Carrier Payment System (CCPS), to optimize transaction records and clearing between different carriers. Telecom carriers offer over-the-top (OTT) payments solutions, where payments using a mobile wallet are adjusted in the customer’s monthly telecoms bill. With CCPS, the goal is to enable mobile subscribers to use their existing mobile wallets for payments when on a roaming network.

Ledger Insights previously reported on the development of CCPS by TBCASoft and Softbank. TBCASoft said it plans to use the IBM Blockchain Platform in its product stack. IBM’s entrance is likely to enable higher interoperability between existing OTT payments networks as its blockchain platform is designed to be used with various cloud-based systems. IBM’s blockchain solution is based on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric protocol.

“Leveraging a telecommunications blockchain network that can enable improved cross-carrier relations, cross carrier payment can help transform the way telecom carriers transact with partners and customers to deliver innovative payment solutions,” said Utpal Mangla, Vice President & Partner for Blockchain, IBM Telecommunications Services.

The lead developer for the CBSG is TBCASoft. IBM’s role includes strategy, helping the network to scale and the IBM Blockchain Platform.

TBCASoft already has 18 members on its cross-carrier blockchain network. Some of the use cases the network plans to support are — cross-border payments, digital identity, and telecom supply chain. Softbank plans to launch CCPS in Tokyo in 2020.

The unique aspect of CCPS is that it brings existing OTT payment networks on a blockchain. This lowers the entry requirements for mobile carriers and merchant networks and can drive adoption.

This is not the only use case CBSG is exploring. Earlier this year SoftBank and TBCASoft announced the launch of the “Identification & Authentication” Working Group led by the two companies.

IBM is part of several consortiums and is working on a number of blockchain projects at the moment. It is working with CBSG member Telefónica on a proof of concept for international mobile call billing.

Meanwhile, there is another telecom consortium called Communications Blockchain Network (CBN) which is scheduled to launch later this year. Members include A1 Telekom Austria, China Telecom, Colt, Deutsche Telekom, IDT, Orange, PCCW, Tata, Telefonica, Telstra, and TNZI.