How will blockchain disrupt the communication industry?
Having seen Bitcoin’s unprecedented nosedive and hundreds of blockchain projects’ ICO debacle, 2018 might be the worst year ever for crypto since Satoshi Nakamoto published the groundwork-laying paper a decade ago. However, as speculators quitted the game upon the bubble burst, taking away much of the buzz and noise in the market, this year can be the best moment to start a reboot. Blockchain evangelists have a chance to take a break from the hype, calm down and think about how to put the fledgling technology to work in real-world industries.
The communication industry is one of the most promising sectors to marry with blockchain. A few telcos have monopolized user information and infrastructure resources, increasing the risks of data breach and slowing down the development of revolutionary innovations like 5G and Internet of Things (IoT). Blockchain, building the impartial bridge of trust between various parties, can decentralize current monopoly and facilitate sharing economy in the communication area, significantly reducing development costs for telecom providers and improving data security for consumers, hastening the arrival of the industry’s future.
5G + blockchain
5G, the next-generation wireless technology, is around the corner as industry giants such as AT&T and Verizon race to turn it from the lab to the marketplace. Promising ultra-high transmission speed (10 gigabits per second, about 100 times faster than 4G), the 5G network would pave the way for a wide range of new applications, including autonomous vehicle, IoT, Smart City and VR/AR live streaming, all of which rely on the real-time transfer of massive volumes of data that the current networks fail to handle.
However, before consumers enjoy this superior wireless service on their mobile gadgets, the industry needs to cross a big hurdle: the connectivity. 5G operates on radio waves of higher frequencies so that it can carry more data than 4G. But higher-frequency waves have shorter wavelengths and therefore travel shorter distance compared with lower-frequency waves of the same intensity. Consequently, the 5G technology requires a denser network of cell towers to cover as large as the area as 4G.
Building more towers brings about skyrocketing costs: an Accenture Strategy report said telecom operators are expected to pour $275 billion into establishing 5G infrastructure over seven years starting from 2017. The development cycle will be lengthy, too, as the construction progress is likely to be halted by strong pushbacks from local communities. If a telecom operator attempts to develop a 5G network in a centralized way — setting up equipment, handling data and negotiating local contracts on its own — 5G would be a dream that never comes true.
The problem could be solved with the sharing economy powered by blockchain. Following the consensus mechanism on a blockchain platform, any third-parties, whether they are individuals, communities or companies, can set up a few cell towers and join the 5G networks primarily built by telecom giants, significantly speeding up the construction of 5G infrastructure. The consensus mechanism can reward these third parties in cryptocurrency fairly and transparently by measuring their contribution to the network.
Cloud communication + blockchain
Once a sufficient number of 5G cell towers are established, there is still another mile to go before consumers have a real taste of the data-intense, sci fi-like apps the upgraded wireless technology can support. Compared with apps on 4G networks, 5G-powered communication apps, such as ultra high-definition live streaming apps or VR apps, require much more servers and bandwidth to process the deluge of data with low latency. Most developers cannot afford the costs if they have to set up and maintain in-house servers along with other backend infrastructure by themselves.
The blockchain-powered sharing economy can also address this challenge. TOP Network is building the world’s first decentralized cloud communication network on the blockchain. Following TOP’s sophisticated consensus mechanism, individuals, telecom operators and service providers around the world can contribute their idle resources to our network and receive TOP tokens based on their contributions. Similar to a blockchain-based version of Amazon Web Service, we are building a network that has much wider coverage and higher-quality services at lower prices than any single telecom operator can achieve in the upcoming 5G era. App developers can easily utilize our full-stack cloud communication services, including messaging, voice/video, VoIP, VPN and streaming/CDN, to drive down development costs by over 60% and shorten development cycle.
Cloud communication services on TOP Network are offered by various service providers, who tend to charge different prices. Apps, clients of these service providers, tend to have different requirements regarding the scope, quality and price of services. To help app developers purchase services efficiently, we create TOP Marketplace, a decentralized, transparent marketplace realized via smart contract. In the marketplace, App developers submit information on the services they need and service providers post what they can offer. After matching offers and bids based on a series of advanced protocols, the marketplace generates contracts for paired parties and monitors contract execution.
Data security + blockchain
The centralized social media and communication industry is notorious for data breaches. A quick recap of the biggest data scandal this year: UK-based voter-profiling firm Cambridge Analytica manipulated a loophole in the Facebook API to obtain data of at least 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge and sold the data to Trump campaign in 2016.
On a blockchain-version Facebook, however, users will be more comfortable posting on their timelines, as there is no centralized app operator like Facebook, Inc. for malicious organizations or individuals to steal information from. On blockchain-based apps, user data are relayed, validated and stored by nodes across the entire network based on complex consensus mechanism. To snoop on and tamper with certain data, hackers have to identify the specific target or take down the whole blockchain network — either will generate huge costs and render the hack economically impracticable.
Powered by advanced technologies including two-layer sharding, two-layer lattice DAG, three-layer network and PBFT-DPoS*, the public chain offered by TOP Network can protect social and communication apps from hacker attacks and governmental censorship. Prior to the blockchain project, TOP team has developed three popular communication apps: Dingtone, CoverMe and SkyVPN. These apps will be ported to TOP Chain next year, bringing the next-level data security to their 50 million users worldwide.
IoT + blockchain
When IoT comes, the machine-to-machine communication will be so advanced that, for example, a driver can order and pay for food on the control panel of the car and gets food from an automated drive-thru booth. Without cash, credit card or third-party apps like Venmo and PayPal, the transaction is completed between the car and the booth, which are connected and share data with each other.
Bringing this futuristic scenario into the reality is likely to be “mission impossible” under centralized business models. To make a car part of the IoT system, the automaker has to build servers across the nation so that the driver can interact with drive-thru booths in different cities while traveling around. The automaker and the fast-food joint need to hammer out protocols to make the car and the booth interoperable. The two companies also have to develop a strong firewall to protect consumers from the increased risks of cyber attacks in data sharing. These development tasks will lead to unaffordable infrastructure and maintenance cost if companies work in a centralized way.
But blockchain can significantly reduce the cost and speed up the realization of IoT. By utilizing the blockchain-based cloud communication services offered by TOP Network mentioned earlier in this article, IoT smart device manufacturers no longer need to deploy servers and other infrastructure by themselves. The high data security on TOP Chain frees companies from the headache of developing and maintaining their own firewalls. Interoperability will never be an issue on the blockchain. Devices on the same blockchain-based network will be able to interact with each other from day one, since they follow the same consensus mechanism. TOP Network also offers SDK for IoT devices to convert their private protocols to standard protocols.
Blockchain is not a panacea for all the problems and bottlenecks in the communication industry, but it can facilitate sharing economy and interoperability while ensuring high data security, breaking the yoke of monopoly and unleashing the full potential of revolutionary 5G and IoT technologies. Having notched a track record of successful entrepreneurship in the communication sector for two decades, our TOP team is ready to be the next communication disruptor riding the wave of decentralization.