UK Mulls Blockchain System for Landline Phone Numbering Management

Distributed ledger technology could help resolve some of the problems in the sector including fraud, poor customer experience, and high cost, telecom regulator Ofcom has explained.

Office of Communications (Ofcom), the British telecom, broadcasting, and postal regulator, has revealed a plan for a blockchain-based telephone numbering management system, the body said on Monday. Ofcom will create and test a distributed ledger technology (DLT) solution for existing problems in landline numbering with the possibility to expand blockchain usage into other sectors of its supervisory authority if the project operates successfully.

Blockchain could bring various benefits to the telecom industry, especially in the planned move from traditional analog landline phones to an all internet protocol (IP) infrastructure, the regulator explained. Ofcom received a 700,000 British pound (more than $916,000) grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, dedicated specially for the project. The initiatives, which will run till April 2020, should engage telecom industry, universities, and other stakeholders. Currently, there are 1 billion landline phone numbers in use or reserved for allocation.

 “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,” Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom Chief Technology Officer (CTO), said in a statement.

“And we’ll expand our research into other areas where innovative technologies such as blockchain could be applied to benefit consumers.”

The blockchain-based management system would improve customer experience, lower regulatory and business costs, make it easier to prevent phone scams, and eliminate most of the nuisance in the analog phone system, Ofcom said. DLT also could improve landline telecom industry competitiveness by bringing more flexible solutions.

“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,” Ofcom explained in the press release.

“Previous attempts to develop a centralised 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.”

Developed as a DLT, blockchain has widened its implementations far beyond cryptocurrency itself including in food, art, and banking sectors.