Some of India’s top telecom operators are increasing their focus on blockchain technology. The likes of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Reliance Jio Infocomm evaluating use cases for the technology even as they seek new avenues of growth in an already saturated and price-sensitive telecom market, ET reported.
Jio, whose low prices have turned the mobile services market upside down, is using startup accelerator Jio-GenNext to bring blockchain-related startups on board for innovations. It has put together an engineering team to work on the technology with the goal of developing new use cases and applications.
Vodafone India is already at the proof-of-concept (PoC) stage with blockchain technology, working with IBM, while Airtel is currently involved in initial trials. Various companies are developing 15-16 PoCs based on the technology.
IBM, which is working with telecom companies to develop blockchain-based platforms, expects the first commercial deployments to take place this year. However, not a single telco is looking at introducing cryptocurrency. Earlier, there were reports of Akash Ambani, the elder son of Mukesh Ambani, leading a 50-member team working on this technology for the JioCoin project in an attempt to bolster the JioMoney business of the Jio ecosystem.
“There are multiple applications of blockchain (for the company). The team would work on various blockchain products and one of those applications is cryptocurrency. We can deploy smart contracts and it can be used in supply chain management logistics. Loyalty points could altogether be based on JioCoin,” one of the Jio employees had said.
“Almost all telcos in India are actively seeking ways and means to deploy blockchain for various use cases. Telcos, being at the center of the digital revolution, are going to be key movers and shakers in making blockchain pervasive across the landscape,” said Vishal Awal, vice-president, and lead, telecom, at IBM.
The pre-Reliance Jio era saw the telecom industry grow at 12%-13% on-year. The industry’s adjusted gross revenue (AGR) is now estimated to decline 5% in FY 2018. Larger players, too, have been witnessing a deterioration in their financial position since last year, according to a CRISIL report. Thus differentiation and finding new avenues of growth will be more quintessential than ever.
While talks about blockchain adoption often involve industries like fintech, manufacturing, and even governance, telecom seems to be the next sector where we may see an increased interest in the technology.