Unless you’re familiar with a variety of cryptocurrencies, you generally think of bitcoin when you hear ‘fintech’, right? Of course, that’s unless you have no idea what fintech is, and perhaps liken it to developing something more aerodynamic, or even related to underwater exploration.
However, since last October, a technology originally developed to support bitcoin itself has been trialled as a method of managing UK landlines.
Ofcom, the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications sector, received £700,000 – from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – to channel into finding a way to better handle the approximately billion landline telephone numbers currently available in the UK. Here, we go into a little more detail on how this could improve the experience of the general public.
Why is blockchain involved in the management of telephone numbers?
As already mentioned, in the UK, there is a massive number of landline telephone numbers currently in use or available. However, while all of these are available, the actual times spent using landlines have significantly decreased, prompting the dramatic but very plausible question: “Could this be the end for landlines?”
As more individuals and businesses switch to either a mobile or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), broadband-based service, the next question becomes what to do with all of these telephone numbers. Hence, blockchain may be the answer.
What exactly is blockchain technology?
This is a valid question, especially if blockchain itself is an answer to the landline telephone number conundrum above. In its simplest terms (not that there is much about fintech that’s ever just simple), blockchain is a digital transaction of data that moves information from A to B. Crucially, each ‘block’ stores unique information that distinguishes it from every other block – a little bit like a phone number itself.
As each block can contain up to a megabyte of data, a substantial amount of data can be carried on each one. For instance, if it carried information related to transactions, a block could potentially hold several thousand transactions (or, in this case, telephone numbers).
How can this improve customer experience for landline users?
As all telecommunications networks move away from traditional analogue telephone lines to an Internet Protocol (IP) structure, blockchain could actually prove to be the key in making a transition between providers as seamless for consumers as possible. With lower regulatory and business costs also part of the blockchain deal, and increased agility, the benefits of this form of technology over what we have now seem plentiful.
Crucially, and this is where you may really get excited, Ofcom believes that blockchain technology could lead to more effective management of both nuisance calls and fraud. This is something that any business or household within the UK can certainly both buy into and look forward to.
If blockchain is the solution for this alone, we could certainly be in for a more positive relationship with our incoming telephone calls when Ofcom’s trial of the technology ends in April 2020.