Insightful ICO? Telecom Giant Telenor Wants to Disrupt Media with Tokens

Telcos use ICO to raise Capital !
Telcos use ICO to raise Capital !

A product within telecommunications giant Telenor is hoping the technology behind initial coin offerings (ICOs) can help it disrupt the media business model.

Central to the Norway-based firm’s exploration of the tech is its partnership with data distribution startup Hubii, which launched an ICO this week using the ethereum blockchain. Both companies believe the project will bring benefits: providing a way to create a decentralized, autonomous marketplace of content that can be sold across different platforms, as well as helping Telenor thwart a long-standing hacking problem.

The firms are also interested in how they could directly interact using smart contracts powered by ethereum, instead of via the pesky media companies now increasingly viewed as middlemen.

In conversation with CoinDesk, Telenor’s head of business development at WowBox, Ketil Hoigaard, described the news app could stand to benefit from lessons learned from the Hubii Network ICO.

Hoigaard said:

“Using technologies like blockchain to deliver these services is [the] key to succeed, to be honest, because I think [blockchain is] what’s coming to all these verticals as a tool, a platform, to help deliver content to the end users in an easy way across borders.”

ICO interest

While Hoigaard is studying the ICO to glean insights for WowBox, he said, the project could signal to the larger company how blockchain could be useful in the business.

“It’s still very early. If Hubii succeeds, and I think and hope they will, I think that is five magnitudes larger, using blockchain in WowBox is more to understand and see opportunity,” he said.

Opportunity that already other areas of Telenor are looking into. For instance, Mark Briscombe, head of business modelling at Telenor has formally joined Hubii Network’s impressive advisory board, which includes former Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger and John Paton, the former CEO of Digital First Media.

In that role, Briscombe not only provides business advice to Hubii, but also seeks to learn from the startup’s recent token sale.

And according to Hoigaard, Briscombe has been “talking about staffing up a team” to help WowBox understand the benefits of blockchain.

The unusual partnership between the startup and the incumbent has the telecommunications company moonlighting as a media outlet, serving local news content from Hubii’s approximately 560 third-party content creators to 50 million users each month.

But matching all that content to the best-suited audience, across multiple national borders in Southeast Asia (where the project has so far been implemented) – and doing so in real time – has provided quite a technological hurdle.

Hoigaard, who called the process a “nightmare,” now hopes the ICO will help Telenor figure out how to more seamlessly manage content creation and distribution, while also eliminating middlemen to get cheaper content for its news app, WowBox.

The middlemen the companies are trying to disrupt (as in other similar attempts to reimagine media with blockchain) in this process would appear to be the publishers themselves.

As news and video consumption increasingly comes to users via algorithms, media companies that pay reporters, bloggers and videographers a salary stand to be increasingly marginalized by self-executing smart contracts written on a blockchain.

Hubii Network value flow

By moving the functions of a traditional media house to a system operated using blockchain tokens and smart contracts, both Hubii and Telenor hope they can make money and cut costs by paying the creators for their content directly.

“I really want the original content and to use it as I want, in my context,” said Hoigaard.  “And we are willing to pay for it, because we know the users will be there.”

A secure token

However, Telenor’s exploration of blockchain technology goes beyond the Hubii partnership.

Already, Telenor issues tokens from a traditional, centralized database to its WowBox customers in Bangladesh and Pakistan. But they have proved easy to hack. When Googling “WowBox tokens,” three of the four most-watched videos show how to hack the app to receive unlimited tokens.

In this way, Hoigaard remarked that he sees a public blockchain with a tradeable token as an elegant solution:

“We are looking into using a blockchain and our own tokens for our millions of users. They will then get the actual token, on a blockchain, instead of just a database.”

From there Telenor hopes it can grow the program without roadblocks, and the company very much sees expansion on the horizon.

According to Hoigaard, of the 15 countries Telenor serves, Bangladesh, India and Thailand have “innovation houses [that] are looking into blockchain.”

Vietnam Is Preparing to Legally Recognize Bitcoin

Vietnam and Legal Bitcoin - Soon !
Vietnam and Legal Bitcoin – Soon !

Vietnam’s prime minister has approved a plan that could see the country formally recognize bitcoin as a form of payment by 2018.

According to regional news services VNA, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has tasked Vietnam’s central bank as well as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Safety, to draw up a legal framework around cryptocurrencies.

An assessment for how the government should approach this process is due to be completed by August of next year. Once that is concluded, it’s expected that drawing up the legal documents required to recognize cryptocurrencies under a regulatory framework will be completed by the end of 2018.

In tandem, officials will also begin work on a tax treatment for cryptocurrencies. According to VNA, a system governing how cryptocurrency users will be taxed in Vietnam is slated to be in place by June 2019.

If approved, the move would signal that leaders in Vietnam are moving away from the more cautious viewpoint expressed in 2014, when central bank officials warned consumers about the risk of cryptocurrencies.

China’s New Fundraising Rules Could Lead to ICO Investigations

Here we go again another ...Ponzi
Here we go again another …Ponzi

New rules being developed by the Chinese government against illegal financing may be used to crack down on initial coin offerings (ICOs).

A draft of the regulations has been released by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, the executive Branch of the Chinese government. Officials are soliciting public comments over the next month before officially commencing the legislative process.

Though broadly focused on a range of fundraising activities, the fifteenth article of the draft ruleset identifies cryptocurrency-based funding efforts as potential targets for investigations.

The text states:

“If the department overseeing illegal fundraising activities found a fundraising without proper permission, or a fundraising that violates the relevant provisions of the State, and if one of the following circumstances is found, the department shall launch an administrative investigation. Other relevant departments shall cooperate with the investigation.
(2) to raise funds in the name of issuing or transferring equity, raising funds, selling insurance, or engaging in asset management activities, virtual currency, leasing, credit cooperation and mutual funds…”

The draft outlined that the government shall establish an interdepartmental committee to combat illegal fundraising. It also clarified, for the first time, that participants of illegal fundraising shall be responsible for their own losses.

There are currently two laws dealing with illegal fundraising in Chinese crime law system. The crime of fund fraud, which used to be punishable by death, now carries a maximum sentence of life in jail. The other one – the crime of illegally absorbing public deposits – carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

The new regulations also come amid a public outrage on pyramid selling scams. Last month, several college graduates were found dead after being imprisoned and assaulted by members of a pyramid selling organization in Tianjin, China.

$3,500: Bitcoin Price Sets Another New All-Time High

Macau bit coin casino here we go again !
Macau bit coin casino here we go again !The price of bitcoin continues to climb to new highs, reaching an average of $3,525 across global exchanges today, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index.

All told, the price of bitcoin has now climbed 250% since the start of the year, rising from just under $1,000 on January first to its all-time high today.

Year-over-year, the price gains are even more impressive, with bitcoin increasing nearly 600%. The price of bitcoin on August 8, 2016, was roughly $595, according to BPI data.

Whether bitcoin will push higher, however, remains to be seen, as the price did encounter some resistance, later declining to $3,458. The day’s opening price was $3,431.

The price surge also coincides with a new all-time high in the wider cryptocurrency markets, as the value of all publicly traded cryptographic assets rose above $120 billion for the first time, up from $116 billion yesterday.

Overall, it appears bitcoin was responsible for much of the upward movement. Data from CoinMarketCap shows the market cap of bitcoin hit $56.8 billion today, up from around $53 billion yesterday.

Other cryptocurrencies have been performing well alongside bitcoin, however, with just two of the top-10 cryptocurrencies (Ripple and Neo) showing 24-hour declines at press time.