The founder of Bubbletone Blockchain for Telecom Yuri Morozov talks about the possibility of a revolution in the roaming market, creating accessible mobile communications for foreign trips and simplifying personal client authorization thanks to the blockchain.
Q: As your project is related directly to the provision of mobile communications and roaming services, my first question is about this very subject. When traveling abroad, we face the problem of how to stay connected and avoid going bust in the process. How is the roaming market structured today?
A: The entry of any new player in today’s international roaming market is a very expensive process, in terms of both time and money. You need tens of millions of dollars and several years to secure approvals in order to connect to the infrastructure of different operators and ensure roaming connectivity.
Q: In other words, this is an exceedingly expensive and protracted process
A: Exactly. You can’t simply go off and start transmitting a signal. First, you have to reach an agreement with a roaming hub – a major international alliance of players on this market. If you receive permission, you will have to conclude more than 500 agreements with mobile operators and then conduct a whole range of technical tests… And finally, they will ask you the most important question: “How many clients will you bring to the roaming market?” After all, if you are not a monopoly or simply not a major player, then it is highly unlikely that you will be able to guarantee a large inflow of users for the operators of other countries. Accordingly, you will not be granted access to the market, or they will establish prohibitive tariffs that are an order of magnitude higher than local tariffs.
Q: That is all clear. Effectively this is a global monopoly… All the same, why is roaming so expensive? In particular, let’s take Internet access abroad. The Internet is becoming cheaper all over the world with every passing year, but with roaming, you still have to pay big money for it.
A: For traditional mobile operators roaming is set up as follows: the partner operator of a mobile company provides voice communications abroad, while the Internet passes through the access point of the home operator. This is like flying from Moscow to Berlin through Tokyo. A vast loop requiring huge money and time costs. The same is true of the Internet used by a subscriber during roaming: it makes the same enormous “loop” through the home operator before getting to the subscriber’s telephone. That is why at present you don’t get the best quality Internet or maximum speed during roaming.
Q: And what is the alternative that you are offering to this system?
A: The roaming business hasn’t changed for more than 30 years and continues to be very expensive for both clients and mobile companies. That is why the main idea of our project is to create a large infrastructure platform for the telecom market, which would make it possible to eliminate expensive international roaming. In essence, we want to abolish it once and for all. Our solution is a blockchain platform that will connect users and operators directly. Thanks to blockchain we can radically change the entire telecom ecosystem that we have known for decades. We are creating new rules of the game on this market and offering a distributed and independent infrastructure for all operators.
Q: That is a bold statement. However, how do you intend to implement this concept?
A: We have already created a platform capable of loading mobile profiles onto SIM cards over the air. Effectively this will guarantee the same level of prices and quality as those of a local subscriber in any country. This means that you won’t have to go to a store to pick up a local SIM card when you arrive in a different country. Before the trip, you will be able to access our mobile application, which is called Bubbletone, select the offer of any operator and the optimal tariff plan, and immediately buy it. The application is linked to the blockchain platform. Payment is made rapidly through a smart contract. This is a special algorithm guaranteeing payment to the operator and the provision of the service to the client. Consequently, a traveler will essentially become a local subscriber in the country where he or she is going and will be serviced at the same tariffs as local residents. In addition, the traveler will enjoy a far better quality of communications, as in our case Internet access will be provided directly through a guest operator. Incidentally, the Bubbletone app can already be downloaded and installed on Apple and Android smartphones.
Q: Where did you come up with the idea of implementing this project on blockchain?
A: We came up with the idea due to a number of global factors that were inconveniencing both us and our clients. Even though we have been active in the telecom business for a long time, compared to the “big four” (MTS, Beeline, Megafon, Tele2 – note of the author) we are a small company, and so we had no direct access to the global roaming market. As a result we had to open roaming for our subscribers through the operators that we cooperated with — Megafon and Beeline. It was here that we regularly encountered problems.
Q: What kind of difficulties?
A: We were fully responsible for roaming payments before our partners and would make the entire payment in advance on behalf of all our clients. However, it sometimes happened that our partners would not provide billing online, but instead with a delay of several hours or even days. In this case, we were forced to disconnect our clients when they reached a certain balance, which naturally led to complaints. There was also another issue: when our clients were in the red, then it was very hard to recover the money that they had spent on roaming. That is why we also decided to take a closer look at blockchain technology and immediately saw significant advantages.
Q: What are the advantages compared to the system that you used before blockchain?
A: Blockchain freed us from the need to conclude contracts with companies from other countries to transfer mobile profiles to our platform. Now operators all over the world have an opportunity to set out their offers in smart contracts and see for themselves the clients who turn to them. Secondly, clients enjoy services of the same high quality and at the same low price (compared to roaming) as local subscribers.
Q: How is the verification process implemented now?
A: The personal data of the client were already verified by its home operator at the time of the first connection. When the subscriber wants to buy the services of an operator from another country directly, his personal data are transferred in encrypted form through blockchain to a foreign operator. This is the universal way of confirming the identity of the subscriber. Moreover, his data is protected reliably. Consequently, you will no longer have to undergo complex identification procedures when buying communications services in the Bubbletone blockchain. All you need to do is confirm the use of your data every time you visit a new country.
Q: Effectively you are destroying an international roaming system that existed for years and the rules of the game on this market.
A: Yes, Bubbletone Blockchain for Telecom may become the “disruptive technology” that unleashes a chain reaction of global changes decentralizing telecom.
Q: It is clear how you will benefit from this project. However, how do you intend to convince mobile operators to sign up for a project that destroys their conventional world order?
A: It is very simple: we are making the blockchain platform profitable for them. Our project enables small and medium-sized companies, which are not players on the global roaming market, to expand their sales markets significantly. They gain the ability to provide communications services to travelers on a par with the largest operators, but at local tariffs that are attractive to tourists. Effectively, we are elevating local mobile markets to the global level.
Q: And what about major players?
A: There are undoubted benefits for all operators. In blockchain the data of the SIM cards of a foreign operator are loaded onto the telephone over the air in the form of cryptokeys. Consequently, the guest operator sells its services directly, without intermediaries, without store overheads or costs on the issue of the SIM card itself. The savings are plain to see, and this means that you can set a final price for the services that is lower than the price on the local market, which will immediately attract clients.
Q: Do you help operators integrate into your project in some way?
A: Of course. First of all, our platform can be downloaded for free from GitHub (a major website for hosting IT projects and their joint development – notes of the author). In addition, we created a flexible and simple system for using this platform for everyone. Secondly, we ourselves prepare and transfer the templates of all the smart contracts to mobile communications operators. All these factors enable operators to integrate into our system in just a few days.
Q: Let’s go back to the very beginning. How did your company get its start? And what is it doing today?
A: Our corporate group has worked in the telecommunications sector for more than 20 years. We started in 1997 with conventional telephony. In 2002 we launched one of the first projects on converging fixed and mobile networks with Megafon, and a little later started working with Beeline. Our brand Allo Incognito provides high-tech mobile and fixed-line telecom services, and also new generation telecommunications services to corporate and private clients. Today, this is one of the largest virtual operators in Russia – our client base numbers more than 200,000 people. In addition, one of our companies is a Skolkovo resident, where we are developing a platform to load mobile profiles on telephones.
Q: You are planning an ICO in March 2018. Why?
A: To collect funds for the further development and global distribution of the blockchain platform for telecom.
Q: How much do you expect to collect?
A: Depending on the total amount collected, we will be able to elevate our operating product to a specific level. For example, if we collect around 50 million dollars, we will be able to develop and provide an opportunity for online service providers all over the world to sell their services (entertainment content, educational programs, etc.) to mobile subscribers anywhere in the world. After all, their identities have already been verified, and a local communications operator will help to sell the product. Collecting approximately 100 million dollars would enable us to register a so-called global mobile profile. We would be able to place SIM cards in the chipsets of telephones, and our SIM profiles would already be loaded in mobile devices.
Q: What will this technical solution deliver?
A: Thanks to this solution, it will no longer be necessary to connect to any specific mobile communications operator – after buying a telephone, you will be able to immediately select the local profiles of operators anywhere in the world.
Q: What markets are you targeting with your project?
A: I talked about this a little earlier. Let me reiterate: the operators connect with us regardless of the size and share of the local market. We have a global project, and there are no restrictions. We position ourselves as partners to anyone who wants to work and earn money from roaming, offering in this case the most profitable solutions for their clients.