ETSI launches blockchain industry group

ETSI is forming a new group to focus on blockchain use cases and technologies. (Pixabay)

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) announced Tuesday that it has launched a new industry specification group for blockchain.

The news is further confirmation that the telecommunications industry is intent on leveraging blockchain use cases across its supply chains and networks.

ETSI's Industry Specification Group on Permissioned Distributed Ledgers (ISG PDL) will analyze and provide the foundations to operate distributed ledgers to be deployed across various industries and governmental institutions.

ETSI defined blockchain as growing lists of records, called blocks, that are linked together with cryptography. By design, the data from a blockchain cannot be modified. It is an open distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties in an efficient and secure manner.

By creating virtual ledgers, enterprises and service providers are able to track and manage information across various parties in a value chain. Blockchain, which was developed for bitcoin, is a digitized, distributed ledger that tracks transactions as statements of facts that can be used in a digital economy by businesses, regulators, operators and consumers.

Distributed ledgers can be either "permissionless" (public) or "permissioned" (private). While permissionless ledgers are well known by the general public through bitcoin, permissioned distributed ledgers are better suited to address the more business-oriented use cases that are of interest to industry and governmental institutions.

The founding members of the PDL group include Alastria, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Mineco, NEC, Telefónica, and Vodafone. The new ETSI group will focus on the challenges related to the operation of PDLs, business use cases, functional architecture and solutions for the operation of PDLs, including interfaces, APIs, protocols and information data models, as well as other topics.

The group's focus will be discussed during the kickoff meeting on Jan. 24 at Telefónica's office in Madrid. Officers of the new group will be elected at that meeting.

Blockchain is heating up

Blockchain is a $1 billion opportunity for telecommunications companies, but they need to proactively make the significant commitments necessary to position themselves for that revenue, according to research by GlobalData.

RELATED: Telcos will thrive in blockchain—if they try: report

There were several blockchain proof-of-concept demonstrations at the recent MEF18 conference in Los Angeles. During his keynote address at MEF18, MEF CTO Pascal Menezes said blockchain was on MEF's road map.

In 2015, the Linux Foundation announced the formation of its Hyperledger open-source umbrella organization, which included support from IBM, Intel and SAP. It remains to be seen whether the Linux Foundation, MEF and ETSI will work together on blockchain tools, applications and services.

In September, AT&T announced it was working with Microsoft and IBM on a suite of blockchain-based services that are designed to help its enterprise customers cut costs and speed automation processes.

BT, Colt, HGC Global, Telefónica and Telstra are involved in a trial that uses blockchain for wholesale settlement, while Verizon is an investor in Filament, a blockchain company that could eventually help the carrier handle payment for drone delivery and monitoring services.

In August, CBCcom, PCCW Global, Sparkle, Tata Communications, Clear Blockchain Technologies and Cataworx announced a blockchain proof-of-concept trial.