Industry news

Local councils boost funding for Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme for rural areas


The announcement today builds on the earlier government update, setting out that a further 250,000 English homes and businesses are now eligible for boosted funding from 17 English councils for the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

More than £22 million of additional funding has been provided by local councils to top-up the values of the vouchers in their areas. The Scheme targets areas where the cost of building new gigabit broadband infrastructure is likely to be too high for commercial operators to cover alone. Since May 2019, vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small and medium sized businesses and up to £1,500 for residential premises have been available to cover these costs in rural areas across the UK.  (more…)

Ofcom’s Connected Nations Report – Summer 2020

Ofcom has published its interim report which states that full fibre broadband is now available to over 4.2 million UK homes (14%), an increase of 670,000 (2%) since January. This is a result of increased rollout from the expansion of existing broadband networks as well as companies building entirely new fibre networks.

The UK Government recently announced that almost 500,000 premises across the UK have been connected to gigabit-capable broadband since summer 2018 as a result of a £1 billion government funding commitment that runs until the end of 2021, with a further £5 billion earmarked for the hardest-to-reach areas. Government has also launched a new taskforce – GigaTAG – to encourage further take-up of gigabit broadband services. (more…)

Ofcom customer service updates

New research published by Ofcom highlights which phone and broadband companies are setting the industry standard for good customer service in the UK.

Sharing the data, based on company performance up to January 2020, therefore before the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Ofcom’s fourth annual Comparing Customer Service report shows that overall, 85% of broadband customers say they are satisfied with their service. Specifically, the report looks at how each of the major telecoms providers performed in 2019 on measures including customer complaints received, value for money and overall customer satisfaction. (more…)

Ofcom confirms plans for spectrum auction in January 2021

The UK regulator has confirmed plans to auction important airwaves to help improve mobile broadband and support the rollout of 5G, announcing it will release more airwaves, with bidding set to start in January 2021.

The auction will increase the total amount of spectrum available for mobile in the UK by nearly a fifth (18%) – helping improve mobile services and give people better access to 5G. (more…)

Government agrees measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers through COVID-19

BSG welcomes the conclusion of a collaborative initiative between the UK major telecoms providers, the Digital Secretary and Ofcom which targets customers in need additional support to stay connected during the current pandemic. Yesterday’s announcement sets out a number of substantial commitments to support and protect vulnerable consumers and those who may become so arising from changes in circumstances brought on by Covid-19. These measures build upon, and reinforce, the Stay Connected campaign launched last week.

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DCMS signs £1 billion deal with mobile networks to improve coverage in rural areas

Government announced today that it has reached agreement with the four mobile networks to improve 4G mobile coverage.

As part of the government’s commitment to improve digital infrastructure in the UK, the Secretary of State for DCMS has signed a £1 billion deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to extend rural coverage via the Shared Rural Network (SRN). This means that 4G will be available to 95% of the UK landmass by 2026, extending mobile coverage to 280,000 more premises and on an additional 16,000km of the UK’s roads. The government has pledged £500 million of funding to eliminate not-spots where there is currently no coverage from any operator. The four networks are committed to investing £532m to close almost all partial not-spots where there is currently only coverage from at least one operator.

Last August the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and DCMS published proposals to reform permitted development rights to support deployment of 5G and extend 4G mobile coverage.

 

Monthly update from the Broadband Stakeholder Group

The Broadband Stakeholder Group has published its latest monthly newsletter “Connectivity sets the agenda.”

The bulletin outlined key updates in industry-related regulation and policy from January 2020 – including the reintroduction into the parliamentary timetable of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – and the much-anticipated conclusion to the Telecom Supply Chain Review. You can read more about the review in detail via our news post.

Our newsletter also provided an overview of developments in consumer protection and child protection regulation, and what lies ahead following the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 January 2020. BSG and techUK are promoting the interests of the digital infrastructure industry in a number of other recommendations to Government which include improved access for UK companies to priority international telecoms markets in future free trade agreements.

If you would like to receive our next update, you can sign up to the BSG newsletter in the footer of our website below.

Telecoms Supply Chain Review

The Government has announced new plans to safeguard the UK’s telecoms network and pave way for fast, reliable and secure 5G and full fibre connectivity. This clarification is critical for a number of UK infrastructure providers who sit on the Broadband Stakeholder Group, and to inform decisions in relation to Huawei in the rollout of the 5G and full fibre, gigabit-capable networks.

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CMA investigation into the loyalty penalty

A report published today by the CMA is a progress report setting out the work and progress that has been made over the last 12 months.

In September 2018, CMA received a super-complaint from Citizens Advice. There followed an investigation into the loyalty penalty in 5 markets: mobile phone contracts, broadband, household insurance, cash savings and mortgages. The CMA uncovered continual year on year price rises, costly exit fees from contracts, time-consuming and difficult processes to cancel contracts or switch to new providers, and auto-renewal policies that switched unsuspecting customers onto more expensive contracts, often without sufficient warning. In its response to the super-complaint, the CMA made a number of recommendations to Ofcom, the FCA and other regulators to help them better protect consumers. It also launched its own investigations into auto-renewal practices in two sectors. (more…)

Cross sector comparisons

The UK Regulators Network (UKRN), regulators in telecoms, water, energy and banking have partnered to compare how customers rate the biggest companies who provide services people rely on every day. The level of customer satisfaction in telecoms varies between 79% to 96%. The scorecards also capture some metrics on perceptions of value for money. Between 82% and 97% of customers in telecoms are satisfied with the value for money they receive from their supplier. Complaints across mobile, landline and broadband complaints are below 1%. (more…)

Ofcom’s proposals for stimulating greater investment in fibre broadband

Ofcom has published its first combined five-year review of Wholesale Fixed Telecoms regulation which maps out how it will regulate Openreach between April 2021 and March 2026 for both the residential and businesses connectivity markets (previously the regulator separately assessed the Wholesale Local Access Market Review of residential, and the Business Connectivity Market Review).

Ofcom’s four-point plan aims to support competitive investment in fibre networks and competition in gigabit capable services, ensuring world class broadband services are available to as many people and businesses as possible.

  1. Improving the business case for fibre investment. In more urban areas, Ofcom proposes that the wholesale price that Openreach charges retail providers for its entry-level (40 Mbit/s) superfast broadband service is capped to inflation. This follows a cut Ofcom made to this product in its 2018 review. Ofcom also proposes that Openreach can charge a small premium for regulated products if they are delivered over full fibre. Openreach’s fastest fibre services will remain free from pricing regulation to support the investment competition between network builders.
  2. Protecting customers and driving competition. Ofcom will ensure that people can still access affordable broadband by capping Openreach’s wholesale charges on its slower copper broadband services. Openreach will be restricted from being able to offer discounts that could stifle investment by its rivals.
  3. Taking rural areas into the fast lane. In rural areas where there is no prospect of multiple networks being built, Ofcom will support investment by Openreach which is the only operator with a large-scale rural network, by allowing it to recover investment costs across the wholesale prices of a wider range of services, reducing the risk of its investment. If BT provides a firm commitment to build fibre in these parts of the country, Ofcom will include these costs in its prices upfront. If not, Ofcom will only allow it to recover these costs after it lays new fibre. The UK Government is planning to invest £5bn to reach the most challenging 20% of the UK and is working closely with Ofcom on its plans for this.
  4. Closing the copper network. Ofcom plans to remove regulation on Openreach’s copper products in areas where full fibre is built to support the migration/switching of customers to the new fibre network. Ofcom will be transferring its regulation – including price protections – from copper to new fibre services.

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Ultrafast broadband reaches more of the UK

The recent update to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report – which provides information on coverage and service availability for both internet and mobile phones – reveals that ultrafast broadband speeds (defined as download speeds over 300Mbit/s) are now available to properties in just over half the country. Superfast speeds of at least 30Mbit/s have reached 95% of UK premises and full-fibre broadband has risen a percentage point to 7% coverage, or 300,000 additions in the four months since the last report.

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National Infrastructure Commission seeks views on future of regulation

The National Infrastructure is looking for opinions on the regulation of the energy, water and telecoms sector – both current and future changes that may impact on and affect these industries. The call for evidence just published will support the regulation study that the NIC has undertaken at the behest of the Government in October 2018. (more…)