Ofcom wins grant to study blockchain in telephone number management

October 09, 2018
Chris Wheal

A government sponsored fund has awarded the UK’s telecom regulator £700,000 to investigate the possible use of blockchain in the management of telephone numbers.

The Regulator’s Pioneer Fund, a £10m government funding scheme announced at the last UK Budget, awarded the cash to Ofcom on Friday for its project that “uses blockchain technology to improve UK telephone number management”.

Project details

In a press release on Monday, Ofcom provided more details about the project. Between now and 2020 Ofcom will be inviting industry participants to trial the movement and management of millions of telephone numbers using blockchain and ledger technology.

“We’ll be co-ordinating this work across industry, universities and other third-party providers,” Ofcom said.

About a billion landline telephone numbers are available in the UK – either already in use or ready for allocation – and Ofcom issues blocks of these numbers to telecom operators who manage them and the porting (movement) of them between operators.

“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,” the regulator said.

Potential benefits

It outlined a number of potential benefits to moving this process to a blockchain:

  • 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

Further benefits

Ofcom said it hoped the project would bring further benefits as telecoms competitors learn and develop new skills when testing the project, suggesting their efforts could lead to further innovation and wider uses of the technology.

Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, said: “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.”

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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