UK communications regulator Ofcom has snagged £700,000 from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to explore how blockchain technology could improve the way in which UK landline telephone numbers are managed.
Between now and April 2020, it be inviting industry participants to trial the porting and management of millions of telephone numbers using blockchain and ledger technology. It will be co-ordinating this work across industry, universities and other third-party providers.
“Approximately one billion landline telephone numbers are available in the UK, either already in use or reserved for allocation. We issue blocks of these numbers to telecoms operators, who manage the numbers and movement (porting) of them into and out of their control. Existing systems used for this process will be challenged as telecommunication networks move from traditional analogue telephone lines to an all-IP (internet protocol) infrastructure,” Ofcom says.
It says that moving to blockchain could bring a number of benefits to consumers and industry: improved customer experience when moving a number between providers; lower regulatory and business costs; increased industry agility,; more effective management of nuisance calls and fraud.
Getting it right
Previous attempts to develop a centralised database haven’t succeeded because of high costs and barriers to collaboration, but blockchain technology offers an opportunity to build a cost-effective and future-proof solution, Ofcom claims.
“The technology and knowledge gained from this project will be one of the key long-term benefits for all the organisations that are involved, including Ofcom. We have the chance to test the solution before it is rolled out across the industry. We plan to share key learnings, best practices, and the underlying code base, where applicable, with other regulators,” it states.
“We also expect that communications businesses taking part in the project or using the code will also learn and develop new skills, leading to further innovation and wider uses of the technology.”
Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom Chief Technology Officer, comments: “We will be working with industry to explore how blockchain could make it quicker and easier for landline customers to switch providers while keeping their number – as well as reducing nuisance calls. And we’ll expand our research into other areas where innovative technologies such as blockchain could be applied to benefit consumers.”
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