UK Telecom Regulator To Use Blockchain To Manage Telephone Numbers

Blockchain, News | October 9, 2018 By:

Ofcom, the UK’s national telecommunications regulatory authority, has received a £700,000 ($915,000) grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to explore how blockchain technology could improve how landline telephone numbers are managed.

Ofcom will use the grant, which is part of the £10 million Regulators’ Pioneer Fund, to develop a secure sandbox environment for voice communications providers to trial porting and managing telephone numbers using blockchain. The sandbox will allow participants to build interfaces, test business processes and rules, and trial security arrangements.

According to Ofcom, approximately one billion landline telephone numbers are available in the UK, either already in use or reserved for allocation. The authority issues blocks of these numbers to telecoms operators, who manage the numbers and movement (porting) of them into and out of their control.

However, as telecommunication networks move from traditional analogue telephone lines to an Internet-based system, current infrastructures will be challenged. The regulator is looking at blockchain to improve customer experience when moving a number between providers, lower regulatory and business costs, increase industry agility, and effectively manage nuisance calls and fraud.

“Blockchain is resilient because the number database can be replicated with each user having a copy,” Ofcom said. “Updates can also be seen in real-time, by all users, but cannot be added to the register. Previous attempts to develop a centralized database haven’t succeeded because of high costs and barriers to collaboration; but this technology offers an opportunity to build a cost-effective and future-proof solution.”

Ofcom added that the solution developed in the sandbox will be tested before it is rolled out across the industry. It is also planning to share key learnings, best practices, and the underlying code base, where applicable, with other regulators.

“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,” said Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom Chief Technology Officer. “And we’ll expand our research into other areas where innovative technologies such as blockchain could be applied to benefit consumers.”