Tech 9 October 2018

Paul How

UK agency studies blockchain use for landlines

The UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced that it has received £700,000 ($917,000) from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to explore the use of blockchain technology for the management of landline numbers under its jurisdiction.

In its statement, Ofcom said, “Between now and April 2020, we’ll be inviting industry participants to trial the porting and management of millions of telephone numbers using blockchain and ledger technology.”

Hindrances to managing a database for such a purpose were high costs and difficulty in collaborating among parties. Ofcom said, “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.” The benefits of the study, it said, would not just be limited to Ofcom’s mandate, due to other participants in the project.

Ofcom Chief Technology Officer Mansoor Hanif 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.”

The agency said that there were about 1 billion landline numbers already in use or reserved, which are issued to telecommunications companies. The challenge, according to Ofcom, was with telco networks moving “from traditional analogue telephone lines to an all-IP (internet protocol) infrastructure.”

Ofcom said that blockchain could help in the process, by facilitating the moving of a number between providers, better handle fraud and nuisance calls, lower costs, and “increased industry agility.”

“Blockchain allows for greater transparency between users and uses underlying open-source software code. It is resilient because the number database can be replicated with each user having a copy. Updates can also be seen in real-time, by all users, but cannot be added to the register,” the agency said.

The BEIS was created in 2016, replacing the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

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