Telefónica Tech Blockchain Platform Bolstering Telecom Tower Management

John Byrne, Service Director

Summary Bullets:

  • Telefónica Tech will utilize blockchain to accelerate automation within mobile operator networks and foster ecosystem development.
  • With new concepts such as ORAN promising more vendors within operator architectures, the ability to establish transparency will be crucial. Blockchain potentially addresses this challenge.

Spanish telecommunications infrastructure management company Atrebo announced in October that it will deploy Telefónica Tech’s blockchain platform to digitize over 200,000 towers and other telecommunications infrastructure assets.

Atrebo’s ‘TREE’ platform provides a variety of infrastructure management capabilities that help mobile network operators get a handle on the various challenges that come with network deployment and operation, including network planning, site acquisition, installation, operation, and optimization. While Atrebo offers its platform across energy, smart city, and other vertical markets, telecommunications is its largest market, and Telefónica is its biggest customer by far, having deployed the TREE platform in 13 of its 17 markets.

Network deployment and operation has traditionally been defined by manual processes as well as a complex web of partners managing various elements of deployment and operation. As a result, it is uniquely well-suited to blockchain applications that can guarantee levels of trust and trace task handoff across a complex ecosystem. Enter Telefónica Tech’s own ‘TrustOS’ managed blockchain platform, which the company has already deployed to manage its supply chain in Brazil.

The new blockchain announcement comes at an interesting time in the industry, in which concepts like open RAN and the introduction of millimeter wave (mmWave) radios will increase the number of base station vendors, and edge modules from hyperscalers like AWS and Microsoft Azure will increasingly intermingle on racks with gear from network operators and towercos. In theory, this could make traceability even more important when it comes to troubleshooting and maintenance.

Telefónica plans to extend TrustOS across its entire Atrebo-managed infrastructure inventory platform by 2022. From the operational point of view, the platform will record incidences and issues, service levels, traffic data statistics, and all information relevant to changes to the infrastructure while in service. All related processes will be transparent, including maintenance operations, additions or removal of radio equipment, and leasing updates. Telefónica has broader aspirations in blockchain, including ‘tokenization’ of towers via non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that can be used to sell tower rights or enable new tower investment vehicles; while the NFT opportunity has yet to be defined, it potentially provides the ability to buy and sell tower interests in a way that allows network operators and tower companies to maximize the value of their assets.

The new blockchain initiative is the most advanced to emerge from the Tower Automation Alliance, an industry initiative formed in late 2020 by over 100 technology vendors and consultants. The group promotes automation of telecommunications towers and leveraging technology to automate several passive infrastructure operations for towercos and network operators, with the aim of helping them in their path towards digital transformation. In addition to blockchain, the alliance is investing additional areas such as digital twins, infrastructure security, green energy, and business intelligence.

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