UK phone numbers on the blockchain

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The United Kingdom’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) has received a £700,000 ($916,00) grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to explore how blockchain technology can improve the management of landline telephone numbers.

Ofcom will invite other industry members to take part in the research, which will see them manage the move of millions of telephone numbers using blockchain technology. Ofcom’s statement says, “We issue blocks of these numbers to telecoms operators, who manage the numbers and movement (porting) of them into and out of their control.” According to Ofcom previous attempts to develop a centralised database have not been successful due to high costs and collaboration issues. Blockchain technology should help overcome these.

Ofcom also revealed in a press release that there are roughly 1 billion phone numbers available to U.K. residents, “either already in use or reserved for allocation.” However, as the country moves from traditional analog phone lines to an internet-based infrastructure, current systems may face issues.

They also hope there will be other benefits, apart from managing phone numbers. Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom 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 [how] blockchain could be applied to benefit consumers.”

It is hoped that the research project will produce a solution that will be tested prior to an industry rollout, Ofcom’s press release also noted. Furthermore, the regulators intend to “share key learnings, best practices, and the underlying code base, where applicable, with other regulators.” China and South Korea have been exploring blockchain for a similar purpose.

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