UK Telecom Regulator Wins Grant to Study Blockchain

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The U.K. is sponsoring research into organizing and managing phone numbers by the national telecom regulator.

The Regulators’ Pioneer Fund announced on Friday that it would award nearly £700,000 (just under $915,000) to Ofcom, the national telecommunications regulatory authority, “for a project that uses blockchain technology to improve U.K. telephone number management.”

Ofcom provided more details about the project Monday, saying 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.”

“We issue blocks of these numbers to telecoms operators, who manage the numbers and movement (porting) of them into and out of their control,” it explained.

However, as the country moves from traditional analog phone lines to an internet-based infrastructure, current systems may face issues. As such, blockchain technology could be used to lower costs, make porting more efficient, streamline fraud or “nuisance” call management and provide customers with a better experience.

Ofcom chief technology officer Mansoor Hanif said in a statement that the regulator would work with industry members, explaining:

“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.”

The entity has been looking to develop a new database to create these improvements, but past attempts have failed, the release explained.

In particular, centralized databases are expensive and put up “barriers to collaboration,” but a blockchain platform “offers an opportunity to build a cost-effective and future-proof solution.”

Any solution built as a result of the project will be tested prior to an industry rollout, the release noted. Further, the regulators intend to “share key learnings, best practices, and the underlying code base, where applicable, with other regulators.”

British telephone booth image via Shutterstock

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