Simplifying Number Portability with Blockchain

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are now showcasing confidence in areas where they can collaborate with their competitors to achieve better operational efficiency, make savings in cost and improve customer experience. There are numerous use cases where CSPs can collaborate to overcome the challenges that they currently face. Blockchain technology can serve as a platform where multiple stakeholders can collaborate in a consortium formed to achieve a common objective.

CSPs are exploring real-time use cases that can be implemented over blockchain and have the potential to transform the world by enabling transparency in existing processes. Number portability (NP) is one of the key use cases where operators across the world provide services and allow their subscribers to port out to another network. This requires their platform(s) to facilitate smooth transition of subscribers without losing unused prepaid balance and data sharing over a secure channel. In number portability operations, information exchange is possible between CSPs directly or via an intermediary but financial transactions or value exchanges are not possible or easy. With the evolution of blockchain technology, information and value can be exchanged securely and transparently while the porting process itself can be simplified without an intermediary. Sharing of telecom infrastructure among CSPs is becoming a need and a business process in the telecom industry where competitors are becoming partners to lower their increasing investments. This concept of tower or mast sharing is being encouraged across the globe and CSPs are looking for a trustworthy platform to manage the B2B contracts for tower sharing. 

At Wipro, we are working with a number of CSPs to tackle the challenge of number portability using a Hyperledger Fabric-based blockchain solution.

Challenges of Number Portability

For end users

  • False rejection of port-out requests by CSP
  • Re-submission of KYC documents for every number porting request
  • Long waiting period to port-out successfully
  • High porting fees charged by service providers
  • Losing prepaid balance while porting

For CSPs

  • High OPEX for NP management for service providers
  • Additional costs for lookup services, routing services and interconnection
    for ported numbers
  • Longer time duration and complex process for porting validation

For regulatory authorities

  • Numerous complaints from users regarding port-out rejections and delays
  • Long duration for porting process and users are levied porting charges
  • Non-compliance of porting regulation by service providers
  • Lack of transparency in porting process

Hyperledger Fabric is a permissioned blockchain platform with an efficient consensus mechanism and permissioned membership services that can be leveraged to onboard participants in the blockchain network. The identity of the nodes and users, who are the members of this network, can be validated against the organizations’ identity management system. Therefore, there are no anonymous users in such a network. Managed Service Provider (MSP) is also called the Certificate Authority (CA) in Fabric parlance. The platform provides tools for MSP certificate generation. Hyperledger Fabric leverages container technology to host smart contracts called “chain code” that comprise the application logic of the system. There is no proof-of-work (POW) algorithm and crypto mining in Fabric, and it delivers high scalability and fast transactions. Rich queries over the immutable distributed ledger are supported. Hyperledger Fabric offers a modular architecture where developers can create plug-in components.

CSPs will have numerous benefits by adopting Hyperledger Fabric for real time use cases like Number Portability:

  1. Simplified porting process – The current porting process is slow because of delays in unique porting code (UPC) generation, eligibility checks for porting and various other reasons associated with the mediating party. Hyperledger Fabric, with its distributed database capabilities, removes the mediating party and simplifies the process and allows exchange of information among parties. 
  2. Secure exchange of user data – Hyperledger Fabric is an enterprise permissioned platform that provides an immutable and secure exchange of information between the parties of the blockchain network.
  3. Cost sharing or financial transactions over blockchain network – Prepaid users lose their unused balance during porting. Blockchain can facilitate the transfer of financial value between the CSPs over a secure and permissioned network.
  4. Reduced operational costs and routing costs – Hyperledger Fabric, being a distributed ledger technology, allows for removal of an intermediary party. It has a direct impact on cost. With a distributed set up, each CSP has a routing number in their own distributed database thus saving the routing related costs.
  5. Real-time and full transparency for CSPs, regulators and users – All the processes between various parties in a blockchain network can be monitored in real-time. All records, statuses and logs are registered in an immutable ledger and become fully auditable. Regulators will not only have full visibility but will also have the power to strictly enforce regulatory rules.

In number portability, information exchange is possible between CSPs directly or via an intermediary, but financial transactions or value exchange is not easy. As new emerging technologies disrupt the Telecom industry, these problems can become a thing of the past. Solutions built on enterprise blockchain have the potential to transform the world by enabling transparent environments that do not rely on trust. Our Hyperledger Fabric-powered solution, allows non-trusting parties to transact, trade and exchange information and value without intermediaries in between. With the evolution of Hyperledger Fabric technology, information and value can be exchanged securely and transparently while the porting process itself can be simplified, all without an intermediary.

About the author

Subrat Saurabh, Principal Consultant, Blockchain & Telco Domain Expert, Communication BU at Wipro Ltd, has more than 12 years’ experience in IT Solutions delivery, domain, technology, and the telco industry. He has deployed wholesale billing and number portability solutions for global clients and is a certified Scrum Master. Subrat holds a Bachelor’s degree in Telecom Engineering. He is a published author of two books (fiction) and received the award for being amongst the top hundred inspiring authors from India in 2018.