Ofcom investigates how Blockchain can be used to distribute phone numbers

Ofcom is to explore how Blockchain can be used to manage the distribution and management of landline phone numbers within the UK.

There are currently one billion phone numbers either being used or reserved for the future in the UK and these are distributed in blocks to operators who bring them into their own control and transfer them between each other if a customer switches network.

However, Ofcom wants a new database that will not only be more efficient but also overcome challenges to the existing system that will result from the ongoing shift from analogue to digital phone systems.

Ofcom Blockchain

The regulator has secured £700,000 from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to see how Blockchain can overcome the cost and collaboration issues that have prevented previous efforts at a centralised system from coming to fruition.

In its simplest terms, Blockchain is a is a peer-to-peer platform that allows people to communicate and interact without the need for an intermediary. These records can’t be changed, therefore adding trust and validation to environments without a central authority figure. It is most famous from being the system that underpins Blockchain.

The regulator believes Blockchain will result in a better customer experience when switching providers, lower costs, increased agility and the more effective management of nuisance calls and fraud.

Ofcom will work with industry, universities and other third-party providers between now and April 2020 in a series of trials that will test the system before it is rolled out. Ofcom will share technology, knowledge and best practices with other regulators too.

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

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.