Ofcom Wins Almost $1 Million to Develop a UK Blockchain Phone Number System

The U.K.’s telecommunications regulatory authority, Office of Communications (Ofcom) has received close to $1 million (£700,000 Sterling) to develop a national blockchain phone number system.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, setup by the government in 2016, has awarded the grant to Ofcom as part of its £10 million Regulators’ Pioneer Fund.  As stated in a press release on Friday, the Business Secretary MP (member of Parliament), Greg Clark said the project will:

“further strengthen our regulatory system and ensure that it keeps pace with the innovation and technological advances needed to power our economy now and in the future.”

According to a news release on Ofcom’s website on Tuesday, between now and April 2020, it will be inviting industry participants to run trials of the UK blockchain phone number system, co-ordinating trials of distributed ledger technology across the telecom industry, universities and other third-party providers.

Ofcom have stated that there are approximately 1 billion phone numbers available to U.K. residents, “either already in use or reserved for allocation.” it explains that currently it issues “blocks of these numbers to telecoms operators, who manage the numbers and movement (porting) of them into and out of their control,”

With the aim of making porting more efficient, lowering costs, streamlining fraud or ‘nuisance’ call management, and improving the customer experience when switching their phone number between providers, Ofcom states that it will develop:

“a project that uses blockchain technology to improve U.K. telephone number management.”

Ofcom have stated that they had made previous attempts to develop a better system for the industry, however these were based on ‘centralised’ databases, which were unsuccessful due to barriers for collaboration and high costs, it believes that blockchain technology “offers an opportunity to build a cost-effective and future-proof solution.”

The regulator expects that research into developing a blockchain phone number system could also lead to further innovation and wider uses of blockchain technology.  Chief technology officer at Ofcom, Mansoor Hanif stated:

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

uk blockchain phone number system

Ofcom’s press release highlights that the communications businesses taking part in the project will gain valuable knowledge, which “will be one of the key long-term benefits for all the organisations that are involved, including Ofcom.”

Any solution built as a result of the project will undergo comprehensive testing with participating members prior to an industry rollout.  Furthermore, Ofcom has said that it intends to:

“share key learnings, best practices, and the underlying code base, where applicable, with other regulators.”

The U.K. government has been strategically investing into the nascent technology, it recently signed R3’s Corda to develop blockchain land registry solutions, and has already launched a UK NHS blockchain platform developed by software security company Guardtime, that offers 30 million British patients instant access to their primary care information via a smartphone.

Back in July, a detailed report was released entitled ‘Unlocking Blockchain’, that MP Eddie Hughes presented stating that blockchain technology can save the UK government £8 Billion.

But the U.K. are not the only country to super charge its focus on blockchain technology, as per a previous BCTech Report, China’s President Xi Jinping gave an unprecedented speech endorsing blockchain as a critical part of a technology revolution in China, and the UAE’s ‘Dubai Blockchain Strategy’ is aiming to power all government services by 2020.  Earlier this year it launched the Dubai blockchain business registry with IBM, the pioneering hyperledger ambassador that also won a massive AUD $1 billion contract to develop blockchain for the government of Australia.

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