Ripple hints its cryptocurrency product will go live 'in the next month or so'

Key Points
  • Ripple's Sagar Sarbhai says he's "confident" cryptocurrency product xRapid will go into commercial application soon.
  • Ripple has so far not announced any banks testing or using xRapid and has earlier said banks will not be the first to trial the product.
  • Sarbhai said that more than 120 banks are currently partnered with Ripple, using its blockchain-based product xCurrent.
Ripple’s Sarbhai: Regulators starting to see benefits of cryptocurrencies

Blockchain start-up Ripple could launch a commercial application of its cryptocurrency-focused product "in the next month or so," an executive at the company has told CNBC.

Sagar Sarbhai, head of regulatory relations for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East at Ripple, said Monday that the firm was making significant headway with its xRapid product, which is aimed at helping banks speed up transactions by using the cryptocurrency XRP.

"I am very confident that in the next one month or so you will see some good news coming in where we launch the product live in production," Sarbhai said of xRapid in an interview with CNBC's Arjun Kharpal.

Ripple says its xRapid product uses the XRP cryptocurrency as a kind of "bridge" between currencies, allowing payment providers and banks to process faster cross-border transactions.

For example, a bank might want to process a transaction from U.S. dollars to Indian rupees. According to Ripple, this process requires pre-funded local currency accounts in order to take place. With xRapid, Ripple claims that process would be sped up by converting the U.S. dollars into XRP tokens, to then move the money overseas, converting it back into Indian rupees at the other end.

The company has struck deals with various high-profile financial institutions, including Santander and American Express. But those partnerships have so far been mostly focused on another product called xCurrent.

Ripple has so far not announced any banks testing or using xRapid and has earlier said banks will not be the first to trial the cryptocurrency-focused product. Firms that have trialed the product include money transfer giants Western Union and MoneyGram and payment upstarts MercuryFX, Viamericas and Cuallix.

Sarbhai said that more than 120 banks and financial institutions are currently partnered with Ripple, using its blockchain-based product xCurrent. Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, is commonly defined as a decentralized database for recording transactions — like a ledger book, only shared across multiple locations and with no central authority overseeing it.

Ripple's xCurrent is used by banks to settle international transactions. The company says the platform, based on distributed ledger technology, is used by banks to message one another, confirming each stage of a cross-border payment in real-time.

Earlier this year, Ripple Chief Executive Brad Garlinghouse said the start-up would have "dozens" of banks using xRapid by the end of 2019.

Ripple CEO: Expect dozens of banks to use our cryptocurrency next year

Authorities have so far taken a cautious view on cryptocurrencies, over concerns that they could be used for illicit practices like money laundering, or to defraud investors. Another concern is the volatility associated with cryptocurrencies, which — not excluding XRP — soared to unprecedented levels late last year, only to pull back significantly this year.

Sarbhai said the regulatory environment for blockchain and cryptocurrency technology was improving, with financial watchdogs starting to see the benefits of crypto.

"A couple of years ago the narrative was: blockchain good, crypto bad," he told CNBC. "What we're now seeing is more and more regulators, policymakers taking the whole space in one conjunction," he said.

"So, I think that narrative thankfully is now changing because policymakers, regulators are seeing that there is a strong benefit that digital assets, cryptocurrencies bring in."

The price of XRP surged to more than $3 last year, a huge leap from the $0.006 it started out 2017 with. Having receded significantly since, the cryptocurrency is currently worth about 28 cents, according to index tracking website CoinMarketCap.

Even at that price, the token still has a market capitalization — calculated by multiplying the price by the number of coins in circulation — of $11.2 billion, making it the third most valuable digital asset.

Ripple, founded in 2012, owns about 60 billion of the 100 billion XRP tokens in circulation.