Discussion Papers

No. 445: The economic relevance and development prospects of blockchain: analyses for the telecommunication and energy market (August 2019)

Authors: Bernd Sörries, Marcus Stronzik, Sebastian Tenbrock, Christian Wernick, Matthias Wissner

(full version only available in German)


Blockchain technology is already being used today in various sectors of the economy. Technically, it belongs to the distributed ledger technologies, i.e. decentralized documentation of transactions in different sites. Blockchains can be used primarily to ensure reliable tracking of data and payment flows, to execute and record handling instructions on smart contracts, and in applications where many stakeholders are involved. This discussion paper explains the basic functionality of the blockchain technology. Furthermore, possible applications in the field of energy and telecommunication are shown.

In the field of energy it appears that a wide variety of applications are conceivable, but the concrete implementation is still in its infancy. Various applications are discussed: district solutions, billing, network congestion management and balancing group management. Other applications are also thinkable: In the fields of electromobility, asset management, wholesale electricity supply or certification of energy products. The application of blockchain is to be understood as a dynamic process, in which still many questions are unresolved and the actors are relatively at the beginning. This is also shown by the fact that the blockchain has not (yet) revealed its disruptive character in such a way that individual market roles have already become obsolete. At the moment, it is rather seen that market roles are changing or new tasks are evolving, for example for the network operator.

Also in the field of telecommunications, various conceivable application areas are emerging; however, the extent of the implementation of blockchain is still very limited. When inefficiencies in the market result from the lack of transparency and complexity of existing processes, blockchain technology can theoretically add value in the telecommunications sector. However, in the application fields of international roaming and the Internet of Things, uniform technological rules and framework conditions for implementation still have to be developed.

For both the energy and the telecommunications sector, there are further, overarching issues that need to be resolved for the use of blockchain. Two essential aspects are the question of the nature of smart contracts and governance in the context of a blockchain solution as well as the question of increasing data volumes and the standardization of different blockchains.

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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