Ofcom

Public Accounts Committee report: Improving Broadband

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report Improving Broadband. It states that the revised target of at least 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 is challenging and there is a risk that the very hardest to reach premises will be struggling with slow broadband for many years to come. Other concerns include the lack of detail about how the £1.2bn of the £5bn funding will be used to support the roll-out to the hardest-to-reach 20% of the UK’s 31m premises, and the slow progress in delivering the policy and legislative changes sought by industry. The report sets out the PAC’s conclusions and recommendations.

It is worth noting that gigabit-capable broadband networks (FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1) now cover 37.4% of UK premises, which is an increase from 22.1% six months ago.    (more…)

DCMS Committee publishes 4th report on Broadband and the road to 5G

Evidence to the inquiry found little confidence that nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 could be delivered, and MPs raised concerns that only 25% of the Government’s £5 billion to support roll-out to the hardest-to-reach premises will be made available during the period. The 4th report by the DCMS Select Committee says it would not be acceptable for Government to fail to meet the less ambitious target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment. The report also finds the target for majority 5G coverage by 2027 ambitious given the ruling to ban the use of equipment by high-risk vendors.

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Ofcom Connected Nations and infrastructure reports 2020

This year’s Connection Nations Report states that despite the high demand throughout the pandemic leading to significant changes to the use of their services, the fixed and mobile networks have coped well. A shift to more people being at home drove increased demand on daytime home broadband traffic, and mobile networks saw record numbers of calls made during the first UK-wide lockdown. Both broadband and mobile services have remained resilient as networks put in place measures to manage the extra demand.

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Implementation of the EECC

In October Ofcom confirmed a package of rules to implement the EECC covering landline, broadband, mobile, and pay-TV. Ofcom also consulted on several minor, consequential changes to the General Conditions of Entitlement, as well as changes to reflect the end of the transition period under the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In a statement published today, Ofcom confirmed that the majority of minor changes to the General Conditions, Metering and Billing Direction and National Telephone Numbering Plan will come into effect in December 2021. However, the changes that reflect the end of the transition period under the EU Withdrawal agreement will come into force on 31 December this year.

In the new year, Ofcom plans to consult on a process for residential customers switching voice and/or broadband services, and will separately be providing an update on its work with the industry on the availability of a video relay service for British Sign Language users to enable effective communication with the emergency services.

Ofcom’s proposed workplan 2021/22

Ofcom is consulting on its draft 2021/22 Plan of Work which sets out its proposed strategic priorities and includes the following:

  • Investment in strong, secure networks

Supporting ongoing investment in faster broadband and better-quality mobile networks and working with industry to ensure they are safe, secure and resilient.

  • Getting everyone connected

Working to ensure people and businesses can access key communications services – including in the hardest to reach locations. It includes monitoring the delivery of the universal broadband service and the Shared Rural Network.  (more…)

Ofcom’s ten-year spectrum management strategy

Ofcom has published its consultation ‘Supporting the UK’s wireless future – Our spectrum management strategy for the 2020s’ setting out its plans to manage the use of the spectrum over the next ten years.

The proposals are grouped into three strategic themes:

  • Supporting wireless innovation
  • Licensing to fit local and national services
  • Promoting spectrum sharing

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New Telecommunications (Security) Bill

DCMS Secretary Oliver Dowden introduced the Telecommunications (Security) Bill into Parliament today, giving government new powers to protect the UK’s telecoms infrastructure from cyber threats.

The Bill will strengthen the security framework for technology used in 5G and full fibre networks, including the electronic equipment and software at phone mast sites and in telephone exchanges handling internet traffic and phone calls. It imposes new legal duties on telecoms operators to increase the security of their UK networks, limit the damage of any breaches, and it hands new responsibilities to Ofcom to monitor them and their security practices. Ofcom will also have powers to carry out technical testing, interview staff, and enter premises to view equipment and documents. Fines worth up to 10% of turnover or £100,000 a day could be imposed if operators fail to comply. (more…)

Providers continue to help customers struggling to pay their phone or broadband bill

In March,  providers agreed on a set of measures which included removing data allowance caps on current fixed broadband services and offering new mobile and landline packages to keep people connected. Vulnerable customers who were self-isolating could receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines could not be carried out. Over and above this they supported the NHS, including zero-rating data access and ensuring that the new emergency hospitals had connectivity.

Ofcom recently wrote to the telcos calling on them to revisit the support against Ofcom’s vulnerability guide to ensure customers who are struggling to pay their bills during this latest lockdown period are supported. This includes offering payment holidays or deferrals and freezing additional fees and charges where customers are experiencing problem debt.

 

Ofcom Statement on Implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code

In its December 2019 consultation, Ofcom proposed a package of measures to implement new customer protections in the EECC. In a statement by the regulator published today, the following decisions have been made:

  • Selling locked handsets will be banned – from December 2021.
  • Customers needing accessible formats due to their disabilities can request communications to be sent in a format that meets their needs (e.g. braille). This includes communications about their service such as price changes or payment reminders – from December 2021.
  • Customers will be given important information in writing before they sign a contract, including a summary of key contract terms (broadband providers must inform customers of the minimum internet speeds they can expect) – from June 2022.
  • Customers can exit their contract if providers make changes they were not previously informed of, and are not to their benefit during the minimum term. This applies to other services or equipment if bought as part of a bundle – from June 2022.
  • Enabling broadband switching across physically separate fixed networks, and banning notice period charges beyond the date of the switch for fixed residential customers – from December 2022.

Within the statement, Ofcom is consulting on proposed changes to the General Conditions, the Metering and Billing Direction and the Numbering Plan until 30 November.

The full document is available here:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-1/proposals-to-implement-new-eecc

The Electronic Communications and Wireless Telegraphy (Amendment) (European Electronic Communications Code and EU Exit) Regulations 2020 – Transposition Update

Today legislation was laid in Parliament by Matt Warman, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital Infrastructure, which implements the European Electronic Communications Code Directive. Transposing the changes into UK law ensures that Ofcom’s powers remain operable and reflect recent technological innovation. Some measures, such as the security of networks and services, are being given effect through alternative legislation.

The Draft Statutory Instrument can be found here.

Mobile Matters report: Ofcom explores shifts in mobile use during lockdown

Ofcom has published its second ‘Mobile Matters‘ report, which analyses how around 200,000 people used their Android mobile phones between January and April this year. Time spent on mobile calls rose significantly, as people turned to their phones to keep in touch with loved ones and work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The report reveals marked differences in how people used their phones before and during the initial lockdown period, with the average mobile call in the initial weeks lasting around five and a half minutes – nearly two minutes more than before the social and working restrictions began. (more…)

Ofcom introduces new licence: ‘Spectrum Access: EHF’

In January this year, Ofcom published proposals for increasing terrestrial access to three spectrum bands in the 100-200 GHz range (116-122 GHz, 174.8-182 GHz and 185-190 GHz), currently used by Earth Exploration Satellite Services.  This was followed by a further consultation in May covering the technical analysis. Ofcom has set out its decision to introduce the new licence which can be applied for through Ofcom’s website, from today. (more…)