QLC Chain (formerly Qlink) & The Quest to Reimagine Telecommunications
What is QLC Chain (Qlink)?
QLC Chain is building a platform for distributed telecommunications. Instead of receiving your phone service from a wireless provider, QLC Chain imagines a system where you buy connectivity from your peers. That might mean leasing access to someone’s wifi, receiving cell signal from a base station in someone’s home, or selling your unused data from your wireless carrier to other users.
More broadly, the project is about building a Network-as-a-Service infrastructure that implements smart contracts to facilitate network features, functions, and dApps.
The project is based out of China and built on the NEO blockchain. Last year, it raised over $19 million in an initial ICO. Since then, it has launched a mobile app for sharing wifi and VPN access. Later this year, Qlink hopes to launch its mainnet.
The Problem with Telecom Today
Telecom providers spend a lot of money installing infrastructure for a given service area. Cell towers and phone lines are not cheap to install. That’s especially true over large areas, in big cities, or when trying to connect rural communities. For that reason, telecom providers want to make sure they’ll turn a profit on their initial investment.
These companies have become notorious for being inflexible, expensive, and monopolistic. They’ll often ask municipalities for exclusive access to their citizens in order to avoid competition and allow for higher pricing. At least in the United States, multi-year contracts with your service provider are part of the norm. It can feel like you’re locked in without many options.
How QLC Chain Works
QLC Chain/Qlink aims to address these problems by decentralizing the marketplace for telecommunications and connectivity. The idea behind Qlink is anyone can operate a small base station from their home that provides cell service to the surrounding area. When a Qlink user uses the base station to connect, a small portion of their payment goes to the base station operator.
In addition, anyone can offer their wifi connectivity on the platform. A user could pay for time-limited access to your wifi, and Qlink’s smart contracts would manage the connectivity and payment. For that matter, you could sell access to any of your telecommunications services. One use case Qlink proposes is selling your unused SMS to enterprise companies so they can text their customers.
The platform also integrates advertisers who can pay to add their content to the Qlink network. When a consumer views that content, it charges the advertiser rather than the consumer for the data the consumer used.
Of course, telecom companies are among the largest and most powerful in the world. Disintermediating the telecom industry is an enormous challenge. To a certain extent, Qlink’s plan requires telecom companies to go along with this decentralization, and it might be naive to expect Qlink to be successful. Nevertheless, Qlink’s developers are building important technologies for connecting hardware, connectivity, and the blockchain.
Two Chain Architecture
A decentralized telecommunications network requires a registry for all devices and users. It also needs the capacity to transact and share information between those users and devices. To facilitate these interactions, Qlink uses a dual-chain solution.
The first chain is a public chain built atop NEO. The public chain will hold all digital identity and asset registration information. It will be able to share this information with involved parties via gateways (e.g. telecommunications carriers). NEO uses delegated Byzantine fault tolerant consensus to process thousands of transactions quickly with finality.
A second chain is a proprietary chain. It handles transactions and data between users and asset owners (e.g. billing and usage data). It’s also the basis for the smart contracts that govern relationships in the network. This proprietary chain will use a proof of stake / proof of work consensus model known as Proof of Shannon. Proof of Shannon is still in development and testing for validity.
The two chains will obviously need cross-chain capacity in order to provide an integrated solution. They’ll both be based on NEO’s protocols. However, there isn’t much information about this cross-chain architecture yet as development is still in progress.
Qlink has no delusions of replacing telecom giants right away or all together. The infrastructure they’ve built is far too valuable and essential. Instead, the white paper proposes a system whereby current telecom companies can participate in Qlink’s distributed marketplace. These operators can provide assets and services directly to Qlink users via gateways that connect with the public blockchain.
From there, users can choose who to get their service from. Once they’ve selected a provider, smart contracts set the terms and service agreement for the new contract. These same smart contracts automate payment and ensure service is operational.
The question here is, why would telecom giants participate in Qlink’s plan? They’re making a lot of money off the current system. The new protocol may be more efficient and promote an open market. However, it’s hard to imagine telecom companies participating or allowing their customers to participate. This is one question that Qlink hasn’t adequately answered in their materials.
There are a couple ways that users can make money on the Qlink network. Each is dependent on supply and demand of other Qlink users in your area.
The first is wifi sharing, and this feature is currently in testnet. Basically, you can rent out your wifi to other users in exchange for QLC. List your wifi on the app, and smart contracts take care of the rest. They’ll manage connections and make sure you get paid. You can set limits on users and how long others can access your wifi.
You can do similar things with sharing your unused mobile data or creating a hotspot. In addition, you can sell your unused SMS to enterprise customers who want to text their clients. These other features aren’t yet implemented and we’ll see how effective they become. At least in the United States, where unlimited SMS and unlimited data are increasingly common, these offerings may not make a difference.
Qlink released an app earlier this year called WinQ, available on Google Play. It’s among the first mobile apps to integrate with the NEO blockchain. Currently, the app operates on testnet. If you own real QLC, do not try to use them in the app or on the testnet. Sending mainnet tokens to the testnet addresses will result in loss of funds.
The WinQ dApp allows users to register their wifi and VPN statuses as network assets. These records go on the NEO blockchain and they become part of the service network. Using WinQ, users can earn QLC for sharing their wifi. A portion of the funds earned in testnet will convert to mainnet funds upon launch.
The mobile app also includes an embedded wallet. It’s a one-stop location for sending and receiving QLC. It also allows you to top up on QLC using NEO funds. In the near future, there will be a desktop application with similar features and functionality to the mobile app.
Qlink Base Station
Anyone can operate a Qlink base station that boosts cell signal from providers. A base station is a piece of hardware that is two devices in one. The first is an LTE-U signal provider that forms the foundation for Qlink’s mobile network. The base station is also a protocol mining rig that can participate in the blockchain’s proof of stake consensus.
The vision is for people all around the world to own and operate base stations, sharing the signal and replacing the old system of towered cell service in some areas.
The QLC token is a NEO-based NEP-5 standard token. It will be the mode of payment for transactions within the marketplace. Transactions that use QLC will execute immediately on the blockchain.
Qlink will also support fiat currencies, for use between telecom providers and advertisers. This is meant to ease the transition for service providers to crypto. Fiat transactions will process in a traditional manner, off-chain.
ICO & Market Trends
Qlink launched a successful ICO in December 2017, raising $19.3 million. If you bought the ICO, you would have doubled your investment within six months. The ICO only accepted NEO and issued an NEP-5 token.
After the ICO, QLC climbed along with the rest of the cryptocurrency market in January 2018 before falling during the bear market. It saw a few fluctuations and potential pumps in late March and early April. It’s now on a steady upward trend since then.
How to Buy Qlink/QLC Chain (QLC)
QLC is available in trading pairs with BTC, ETH, and NEO. You can find it on the following top exchanges:
How to Store Qlink/QLC Chain (QLC)
QLC is an NEP-5 token, so you can store it anywhere you can store NEO. Probably the most popular option is the Neon software wallet. For added security, consider a hardware wallet like the Ledger Nano S.
If you’re having trouble seeing your QLC in your wallet, you can use Neotracker.io to locate the QLC contract address and look up your token balance using your key.
Qlink comes from a team of senior software developers based out of China. Check out the Github to see their work as it progresses.
On the business side, the team has a deep bench with investment banking tech financing experience.
The company’s advisors include venture capitalists and a co-founder of Alibaba.
There are still a lot of question marks surrounding the adoption and potential of this project. However, it’s promising to see the developers making progress and releasing a real product so soon after the ICO. If the project establishes the right partnerships and pivots as needed, it could be successful. Nevertheless, the road won’t be easy going up against big telecom.
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