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UK Telecoms Regulator Receives Grant to Deploy Blockchain for Telephone Number Management

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The British telecoms regulator has received a £700,000 grant to explore blockchain applications for better telephone number management.

The United Kingdom (U.K.) Office of Communications (Ofcom) has received a £700,000 ($916,00) grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to explore blockchain technology, according to an announcement published Oct. 8.

The grant will purportedly help the U.K. telecoms regulator examine how blockchain can improve the management of landline telephone numbers.

Established in 2016, the BEIS is a government department supported by 46 agencies and public bodies and responsible for business, industrial strategy, science, innovation, and energy and climate change policy.

Per the announcement, Ofcom is looking to involve industry participants to test the movement and management of “millions” of telephone numbers using blockchain technology, while the agency itself will coordinate the work. “We issue blocks of these numbers to telecoms operators, who manage the numbers and movement (porting) of them into and out of their control,” the statement reads.

According to the regulator, previous attempts to form a centralized database have been unsuccessful because of collaborative barriers and high costs — two things which blockchain technology will purportedly circumnavigate.

Ofcom notes the potential of blockchain, citing regulatory and business costs reduction, more effective management of nuisance calls and fraud, and “increased industry agility” as its main benefits. 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.”

Telephone companies in other countries have also been considering blockchain technology to manage their networks. In July, China’s three major telecoms operators launched a blockchain research group aimed at building “a trustworthy blockchain application team to explore the blockchain area.”

Also in July, South Korea’s largest telephone company KT Corporation launched its blockchain-powered commercial network. The firm built a blockchain layer on top of its existing nationwide network in order to make it “more secure and transparent”, as well as manage data more efficiently.