Ofcom

Ofcom publications

Consultation: Copper retirement – process for determining when copper regulation can be removed (supplementary consultation to the WFTMR)

The consultation proposes to delay decisions about Openreach’s copper retirement process until after Ofcom has determined the outcome of the WFTMR. Justification is that Openreach’s fibre roll-out is still in its early stages and Ofcom would prefer to wait for more details on the Salisbury and Mildenhall trials.  The consultation period ends on 3 September and the outcome of the WFTMR is due to be published in Q4 2020/21.

Online Nation 2020 report

The main report is accompanied by a separate summary report and includes online behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some observations: In April 2020, the reach of education, health and government sites had all grown since January and users of news sites spent more time on these and social media sites on average each day. People used a range of sources to access news about the coronavirus, with BBC services the most popular source. Internet users in the UK spent a daily average of just over 4 hours online. With the proliferation of high-performance smartphones, mobile has steadily grown its share of online revenues reaching 52% of total online revenues.

Adults’ Media Use & Attitudes report 2020

Ofcom’s latest report examines adults’ media literacy and is a reference document for industry, stakeholders and the general public. It includes data on the digitally excluded:  Over the past five years there has been no change in the incidence of adults who do not use the internet (13% offline in 2019 vs 14% in 2014). Many non-users demonstrate a lack of appetite for going online in the near future: 77% say that nothing would encourage them to go online in the next 12 months, and 61% say they don’t currently go online due to a lack of interest or need. One in five state a reason either related to cost (19%) or difficulty (‘being too complicated’) (17%) as a barrier to their going online.

Research: Internet users’ concerns about and experience of potential online harms

According to the latest research into internet users’ concerns about and experience of potential online harms, 62% of adults have had potentially harmful online experiences in the last 12 months and 81% of children aged 12-15. Social media remains the most commonly cited source of potentially harmful experiences among both adults and children.

Ofcom publishes digital exclusion analysis

As part of a weekly survey commissioned by Ofcom over the next three months, analysis of the proportion of UK adults digitally excluded, including those who do not use the internet or have access to the internet at home or have access to any connected devices, has been published. It looks at the likelihood of digital exclusion by a number of different characteristics including: age, living alone, having a condition that limits or impairs their use of communications services, being financially vulnerable.

Overall, one in ten UK adults is digitally excluded – which reflects earlier findings in the BSG research conducted by ComRes in 2019. Age is the characteristic that is most likely to identify digital exclusion, and those aged 70+ are significantly more likely to be digitally excluded than all UK adults.

Other characteristics that can also increase the likelihood of being digitally excluded include living alone, having a condition that limits or impairs their use of communications services and being financially vulnerable. When a consumer has more than one of these different characteristics, the likelihood of them being digitally excluded increases even more.   (more…)

Ofcom Connected Nations Update

Ofcom’s Spring 2020 update is an interim report based on coverage and service availability information received from providers since the last Connected Nations report published in December.

On fixed broadband:

  • Full Fibre broadband availability in the UK continues to rapidly improve with over 3.5 million homes (12%) now able to access faster, more reliable full fibre services. This is an increase of over half a million in the four months to January 2020. This is a result of increased rollout from existing broadband networks and new entrants.
  • Ultrafast broadband has increased across the UK by over 700,000 properties to over 16 million homes (55%).
  • Superfast broadband continues to be rolled out across the UK, with an additional 300,000 properties, meaning over 27 million homes (95%) can now access it.
  • Decent broadband can be accessed by the vast majority of UK properties. The number of residential and commercial properties that are not able to receive a decent broadband service from a fixed line stands at 608,000 (2%). These properties may be eligible for the broadband universal service which came into place in March and gives properties unable to get a decent connection the legal right to request one.

On mobile:

  • Two-thirds of the UK landmass has good 4G coverage from all four networks which includes 97% of the premises in the UK.
  • Just under 80% of the UK landmass is covered by all operators for calls and text services which includes 99% of premises in the UK.

The interactive report can be found here.

Home broadband performance report

The performance delivered by broadband providers is holding up well during the COVID-19 lockdown period and speeds have withstood the increase in demand from home working, online learning and streaming. While being impacted by reduced staffing levels, providers have prioritised keeping the nation connected. Fixed, broadband and mobile providers have put additional measures in place to help vulnerable customers and pledged additional support to NHS workers.

The latest report is based on performance in November 2019 but Ofcom has also included measurements taken in the first and last week of March 2020 to assess the impact of COVID-19.

Click here to view Ofcom’s full report

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Ofcom allows additional time for providers to implement EECC rules

Ofcom has announced that it will allow communications providers at least 12 months to implement changes required when the EECC becomes law in the UK. This may be extended for rules that will have a major impact on systems, such as switching. Ofcom is expected to publish a statement in September once Government confirms its approach to introducing EECC into UK law.

This update follows Ofcom’s consultation in December which closed in March. Ofcom recognises that coronavirus has brought significant challenges to communications providers over recent months and that their focus has been on keeping the nation connected, supporting the vulnerable, the NHS and schools.

The specific implementation deadline for each of the new rules will be published in September.

Ofcom publishes Annual Plan for 2020/21

Following a consultation earlier in the year, Ofcom has published a statement on its Annual Plan for the period April 2020 – March 2021 which has been adapted to take account of the impact of coronavirus on the sector.

In March Ofcom announced its approach to coronavirus – that it was suspending existing consultation deadlines and information requests, and putting on hold new consultations, decisions and information requests. Timings on many areas of work have therefore changed and remain fluid. An update will follow in September, with regular quarterly updates on progress against the plan. Ofcom will continue to work with Government and telecoms providers to keep the nation connected and ensure resilience across landline, broadband and mobile and the 999 and 111 services.

The strategic themes have not changed from the original consultation, but special consideration will be given to vulnerable customers during coronavirus, for example around how to keep them connected, issues relating to termination of service and unexpectedly high bills. Ofcom will also make wider efforts to combat disinformation and will expedite enforcement cases involving potentially harmful broadcast content relating to the coronavirus (such as the myths linking 5G to coronavirus).

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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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Ofcom to take on the role as the internet content regulator

This announcement by Government follows the Online Harms White Paper consultation from 2019.

Ofcom will be given additional powers through a new legal duty of care to force companies such as Google and Facebook to remove harmful content. The Government proposes to introduce a new law for websites which would be enforced through a Code of Practice. ISPs will be expected to quickly remove illegal content linked to terrorism and child abuse and to protect children from potentially harmful material such as that which could encourage suicide and self-harm. (more…)

Ofcom publishes its latest step in its Fairness for Customers programme of work

In June 2019, the UK’s major broadband, mobile and pay-TV companies signed Ofcom’s new Fairness for Customers commitments which puts fairness at the heart of their businesses. The aim of Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers programme is to help ensure people are always treated fairly by their provider – whether they are signing up to a new deal, trying to fix a problem or switching to a new company. (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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Ofcom’s proposed work plan for 2020-2021

Ofcom has set out its proposed workplan for the next financial year. The consultation closes on 25th February 2020.

Strategic priorities:

  • Better broadband and mobile – support ongoing investment in faster broadband and better mobile coverage across the country.
  • Fairness for customers – ensure broadband, phone and TV customers, particularly vulnerable people, are treated fairly.
  • Support UK broadcasting – support the sector (including public service broadcasting) in delivering continued benefits to all UK audiences.
  • Online communications – in conjunction with Government, protect consumers from harmful content online and ensure communications services online work for consumers.
  • Enable strong, secure networks – build a centre of excellence for security and resilience, work with industry to protect networks against outages and cyber-attacks, lead on initiatives to close gaps in best practice.

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Ofcom: Connected Nations 2019 Report

Ofcom’s 2019 Connected Nations report, released today, sets out this year’s developments in broadband and mobile services, availability and coverage.

Leading the data is the nearly three million UK homes that can now access full-fibre broadband – 10% of all homes – and 1.5 million more than last year.

Overall superfast broadband coverage is now around 95%, which means that the vast majority of homes can access download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s. Take-up of superfast packages has increased by 20% in twelve months, but Ofcom suggests millions more could get faster internet by upgrading. (more…)

Ofcom consultation on proposed changes to quality of service regulation on Openreach

Ofcom is seeking comments on its proposed changes to certain regulations that require Openreach to install broadband connections within a set period of time. Openreach has developed a ‘Bulk Grouping provision capability’ in coordination with its wholesale customers that will allow providers to upgrade their standard broadband customers to superfast and ultrafast products in batches. (more…)