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Naver, SoftBank invest $25m in telecoms blockchain firm TBCASoft

mobile payments

Yesterday telecoms blockchain startup TBCASoft announced the initial close of its Series B funding round, in which it raised up to $25 million. The investment was led by Naver Financial, a subsidiary of the South Korean internet company Naver Corporation, with participation from existing investor SoftBank. Naver will contribute up to $20 million, and Softbank $5 million.

The two investors know each other well, as they each own 50% of Line, Japan’s biggest social network, which owns Line Pay.

TBCASoft is based in the U.S. with strong links to Taiwan through its founder. The startup will use the funds to increase the international expansion of the HIVEX Network, which it plans to begin piloting across Northeast Asia, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, followed by Southeast Asia. The company also intends to attract additional talent and step up the innovations in its blockchain solutions.

HIVEX is a QR code-based mobile payment solution, where the billing goes via the user’s mobile carrier even if the consumer travels abroad. Blockchain enables real-time transaction reconciliations between mobile carriers. The ambition is for HIVEX to be as ubiquitous as Apple Pay or Google Pay. Subject to regulatory approvals, it’s expected that SoftBank mobile payment firm PayPay Corp with 40 million users will join. And in Taiwan, PChome InterPay and Asia Pacific Telecom will link their payment wallets, subject to approvals.

“With this new investment, we’ll strengthen our relationship with TBCASoft to expand our Cross-Carrier Payment System network on a global scale together with telecom carriers around the world and our mobile payment partners,” said Miki Fukazawa, VP of Global Alliance & Investment Strategy at SoftBank Corp.

TBCASoft started the first telecoms blockchain consortium in 2017, the Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG). Softbank, which is Japan’s third largest telecoms firm, was a member of the consortium from its inception.

The main CBSG solution is its Cross-Carrier Payment System (CCPS) platform which has evolved into HIVEX. It enables phone users to use mobile wallets while roaming with payments settled through their local phone company bill.

However, since CBSG started, there are now other telecoms blockchain initiatives. The Communications Blockchain Network (CBAN) was founded in 2019. Last year, blockchain startup Clear and telecoms provider Tomia announced a joint roaming management and settlement platform.