UK national telecoms regulator Ofcom has received £700,000 ($912,000) to explore blockchain solutions in UK landline telephone management. The grant was issued by the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
An Ofcom announcement states that between now and April 2020, industry participants will be invited "to trial the porting and management of millions of telephone numbers using blockchain and ledger technology" in an initiative involving industry and university providers as well as third-party providers.
Blockchain technology will allow trusted transactions (AKA 'consumer porting' in this case) to "manage the lifecycle of a telephone number transforming data to support voice call routing and ownership." The blockchain will treat telephone numbers as digital assets to improve landline telephone number management.
Ofcom CEO Mansoor Hanif had this to say about the new project:
“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 Use Case
There are 1 billion landline telephone numbers available in the UK, including those in use and those reserved for future potential use. Groups of phone numbers will be issued in blocks on the blockchain to telecoms operators who will then port them (transfer them from one phone and/or consumer to another).
Blockchain is anticipated to lower the cost of regulation and business overheads, increase industry agility, improve customer experience when switching telecoms providers, and making telephone fraud management and prevention more effective.
The regulator will be building a database of phone numbers for which previous attempts have failed due to the cost and difficulty of getting multiple competing parties to collaborate. The number database placed on the blockchain will allow for transparency between users and telecoms providers.
The telecommunications industry is actually one of the larger markets which may see major disruption from blockchain innovation in the coming years. Mobile network operators (MNOs) suffer from major inefficiencies in billing, payment, and subscription systems which could be completely overhauled and streamlined with blockchain technology. UK-based projects like Diadem are launching a new type of mobile network using smart contracts to tackle these inefficiencies and revamp the industry, whereas existing MNOs like Korea's KT Corp are integrating blockchain into their existing systems.
A report from MNO trade body GSMA indicates that MNOs will invest $0.5 trillion in mobile capital expenditure between 2018 and 2020, priming the telecoms industry for wide-scale blockchain adoption if early efforts are successful.
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