China’s Hainan Free Trade Zone Pledges $140M in New Blockchain Support

Blockchain will continue to see major investment from China’s Hainan Free Trade Zone (FTZ) with new funds fostering local businesses.

As local English-language news outlet Xinhua Net reported on Dec. 5, Hainan’s dedicated economic pilot zone has pledged to boost the role blockchain tech plays in the local economy. 

Free Trade Zone’s “support” for blockchain

The new measures, which the pilot zone announced at a press conference this week, include a fund worth 1 billion yuan ($142 million). 

According to Xinhua, the FTZ is aiming to “support the blockchain industry through talent cultivation, technological application, social investment and other aspects.”

The announcement sees Hainan fall in line with various other Chinese provinces which have confirmed financial support for blockchain in recent weeks and months. 

The Hainan blockchain pilot zone was China’s first when it launched in October last year. 

In general, the Hainan Free Trade Zone is a pilot economic area established by President Xi Jinping in 2018. The plan set out to make the island a free trade zone by 2020 and eventually turn into a free port by 2025. Since then, over 100 blockchain businesses have joined the Hainan Resort Software Community located there. 

Chinese investment pours in

As Cointelegraph reported, blockchain continues to be a buzzword in China after official endorsement of the technology from the government.

At the same time, figures of the country’s financial commitment appear to vary; new cash injections appear regularly, but overall long-term investment forecasts remain comparatively conservative. The latest estimates put blockchain investment at $2 billion by 2023. 

Among the latest funds to come from the local industry was another $140 million from OK Group, the parent company of cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin, cryptocurrency news outlet The Block reported on Dec. 2. Prior to that, the government of Guangzhou also said it would inject 1 billion yuan into the industry.

South Korea Telecoms Giant Ramps Up Blockchain Roaming Deal With China

South Korea’s largest telecoms provider, KT Corporation, is boosting a partnership with China Mobile targeting blockchain technology and 5G roaming.

As local English-language news outlet The Korea Herald reported on Dec. 5, KT is preparing to debut 5G roaming capabilities in China later this month. 

KT Corp. eyes B.Link blockchain rollout

At the same time, the companies are working on a blockchain system which will allow them to save time and costs when computing roaming charges for mobile users. 

According to The Korea Herald, the B.Link system is able to “self-analyze roaming data from the two carriers and can process roaming charges on a real-time basis.”

The news comes around six months after KT revealed it had built a blockchain network of its own. KT Network Blockchain similarly targets roaming, along with other use cases such as user identification.

That announcement in turn followed KT’s Blockchain-as-a-Service, or BaaS, which aims to ease access to the technology for South Korean firms. 

Telecoms embraces blockchain potential

As Cointelegraph reported, both South Korea and China have thrown their weight behind blockchain technology, the latter making it part of formal state policy in a widely-reported publicity campaign last month. 

Enthusiasm is also palpable in South Korea, with technology giant Kakao Corporation describing its Klaytn blockchain offering as being more advanced than Facebook’s Libra project in recent comments.

For the telecoms industry specifically, blockchain meanwhile should bring $1 billion of added value by 2023, according to a study published last year.

Bitfinex Allows Lightning Network Shopping on Bitrefill with Bitcoin

Cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex and crypto store Bitrefill partnered to allow the trading platform’s clients to shop with Bitcoin (BTC) over the Lightning Network.

According to a press release published on Dec. 4, Bitfinex users can instantly pay for a variety of services with Bitcoin that they hold on the exchange as of today.

A Lightning B2B settlement system

Per the press release, the companies attribute the development to the “world’s first dynamic B2B settlement process over the Lightning Network.” The announcement builds on recent news that Bitfinex enabled Bitcoin Lightning Network transactions and that those using it for deposits and withdrawals will pay almost no fees. The companies explained that setting up such a system required some tinkering:

“Bitfinex and Bitrefill utilize customized versions of Lightning to open large channels together, exceeding the default limits in place, but allowing better flow and reliability to users.”

The collaboration between the two firms will allow the exchange’s customers to buy over 2,000 different prepaid vouchers with Bitcoin. The vouchers can cover the costs of services and products relevant to gaming, dining, entertainment, travel and more.

Lightning adoption by exchanges is essential

When Bitfinex users buy products from Bitrefill, the system put in place by the two firms instantly settles the payments over Lightning Network. Bitrefill chief commercial officer John Carvalho explained why he believes Lightning adoption among exchanges is important and where he thinks it will lead:

“We believe that getting Bitcoin exchanges on to the Lightning Network early is integral to preparing for the next wave of adoption and building out a parallel economy for Bitcoin. […] We will continue to work closely with Bitfinex and other businesses to develop Lightning solutions and products that make living on crypto a reality, eventually removing dependability on fiat rails.”

The Lightning Network sees increasing traction and adoption in the cryptocurrency space, with many placing high hopes on its potential to make Bitcoin a viable payment tool.

As Cointelegraph reported last month, bond market veteran Nik Bhatia says that Lightning Network convinced him of Bitcoin’s potential. Also in November, Bitcoin payments app Fold rolled out support for home-sharing giant Airbnb, effectively enabling to book stays included in the service with Lightning Network.

Juventus Soccer Club Releases Blockchain Token for Fan Voting

Italian professional soccer club Juventus has released its own token to enable fans to participate in voting and polling.

Following a year-long development, Juventus’ branded token is now available on Socios.com, a tokenized fan-voting platform for sports, according to a Dec. 2 announcement

The token’s initial price is 2 euros ($2.22) per token, while a limited amount of free tokens will be available through the augmented reality feature of the Socios.com app, “Token Hunt.”

Fans who hold the token will be able to vote in a range of club-related decisions, the first of which will determine the club’s song for when it scores a goal. 

Sports embracing the crypto world

Initially, the club planned to release the token in the first quarter of 2019. The decision to develop a branded token followed a similar initiative by Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). PSG’s partnership with Socios.com also allows fans to vote and also confers VIP status and/or rewards to holders.

Sport teams around the world have actively embraced branded tokens to improve interaction with their fans. In mid-October, the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball team partnered with CryptoKaiju to launch crypto-collectibles backed by non-fungible tokens.

Germany’s FC Bayern Munich is the latest soccer club to announce blockchain-based merchandise for fans through a partnership with Stryking Entertainment to produce digital collectibles of its players. As reported, more clubs are expected to join Stryking as licensing partners for the system.

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