Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC) has today published Government-endorsed guidance on street works during the COVID-19 pandemic. The document has been agreed by the Department for Transport (DfT), HAUC, JAG (UK) and Streetworks UK, and is designed to provide clarity to all English Highway Authorities (HAs) on the continuation of street works, with separate advice notices expected from the Welsh and Scottish Governments. (more…)
“Levelling up and getting Britain building”
In the first Budget since October 2018, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, announced the government’s commitment to levelling up across the UK by raising productivity and growth in all nations and regions, creating opportunity for everyone, and addressing disparities in economic and social outcomes.
In total, around £640 billion of gross capital investment will be provided for roads, railways, communications, schools, hospitals and power networks across the UK by 2024-25. The government will publish a National Infrastructure Strategy later in the spring but the Chancellor announced plans to commit £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the most difficult to reach areas of the country so that all areas are able to benefit. In addition, government will commit up to £510 million, which will be more than matched by industry, to ensuring that 95% of the UK’s landmass will have high quality 4G mobile coverage by 2025. This investment will level up connectivity across the UK, particularly in rural areas.
As part of over £1 billion that the government has already committed to next generation digital infrastructure, the Budget announced the next seven areas that have successfully bid for funding from the third wave of the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund: North of Tyne (£12 million), South Wales (£12 million), Tay Cities (£6.7 million), Pembrokeshire (£4 million), Plymouth (£3 million), Essex and Hertfordshire (£2.1 million) and East Riding of Yorkshire (£1 million).
To ensure that the UK remains a dynamic and competitive regulatory environment, the government is launching a Reforming Regulation Initiative to collect ideas for regulatory reform, as well as implementing the recommendations of the Furman Review of digital competition.
The UK’s success in the global economy will be rooted in innovation and cutting-edge technology and government plans to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024-25.
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.
The new DCMS Select Committee, chaired by Julian Knight MP, today launched an inquiry into the government’s pledge to ensure every home and business in the UK has gigabit-capable broadband by 2025. It will also look at the role of 5G technology and the initiatives such as Shared Rural Network to improve mobile connectivity across the UK.
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.
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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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…)
Proposals to implement the new European Electronic Communications Code
Ofcom has published a consultation on a range of measures protect broadband, mobile, pay TV and landline phone customers and help ensure they get a fair deal. The proposals respond to changes to the European regulatory framework. The Government consulted earlier this year on how to reflect these changes in UK law. Responses are due by 3 March 2020. Ofcom plans to publish a statement in Q1 2020/21.
As part of Openreach’s plan to support the migration of telephone services onto IP technology – the move to All-IP – as well as upgrade its access network to full-fibre, the organization has applied to Ofcom for several rule waivers. Ofcom has opened a consultation that will run until 06 January 2020.
The plan is to carry out two trials. In Salisbury, Openreach will test the processes for migrating customers to full-fibre services and, ultimately, withdrawing legacy copper-based services. The Mildenhall trial will test the procedure for withdrawing Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) and migrating customers to replacement services.
Proposals for a change in UK broadband policy have sparked interest in government interventions in broadband elsewhere, and in particular in Australia’s National Broadband Network.
This note sets out Australia’s history with the NBN, and its consequences.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was asked by Government in October 2018 to review the regulation of the UK’s energy, telecoms and water sectors
In February 2019 a Call for Evidence was published asking for opinions of where economic regulation has failed or succeeded in facilitating future investment needs, promoting competition and innovation and in meeting the needs of both current and future consumers. The study also considered the full range of potential implications of any changes with a focus on affordability and protection of vulnerable customers.
DCMS is consulting on its approach to implementing the key articles of the European Electronic Communications Code, which updates the regulatory framework governing the telecoms sector across the EU. The consultation document assumes a post-EU Exit implementation period until at least December 31st2020.
The revised Directive coming out of the EU intends to incentivise investment in very high-capacity broadband networks, support 5G rollout by promoting more efficient spectrum management, and protect and engage consumers. Internet phone and messaging services will be brought for the first time into scope of telecoms regulation.
The Government sets out three options for transposition of articles that potentially make substantive changes to access and investment incentives, radio spectrum, consumer protection and universal service obligations. These options include maintain the status quo, transposing the minimum requirements or adopting an alternative approach to transposition.
Throughout the consultation the Government seeks to ensure that the strategic goals set out in its FTIR remain consistent with regulatory changes from the transposition. The closing date is September 10th.
Ofcom has published its work plan for 2019/2020 laying out its priorities and projects for the coming financial year following consultation with the public and industry. The four main focus areas for Ofcom are:
* Better broadband – this will include the implementation of the broadband Universal Service Obligation and supporting investment in fibre though duct and pole access – and better mobile – through auctioning more spectrum to boost rural reception and preparing for 5G.
* Fairness for customers – to ensure the fairer treatment of customers with fairer and clearer pricing and more transparency around deals availability. Ofcom will also be increasing the budget for its Communications Consumer panel.
* Supporting UK broadcasting – Ofcom will look to support regional TV productions and review the BBC’s news and current affairs programming and commercial activities as well as ensure that public service channels remain easily locatable in the face of technology developments.
* Online harms – reflecting the growing concerns around protecting people online and to ensure that audiences understand better the online world, Ofcom will carry out more work around media literacy and research into specific harms to include awareness raising.
Ofcom has updated its plan following the Government’s publication of its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities covering telecoms, spectrum and the postal service to reflect the priorities that were set by DCMS.
Whilst there are few surprises in the specific projects proposed for the year, with many ongoing and rolling over from last year, the first quarter should see Statements on the Broadband USO, the completion of the assessment for both the Business Connectivity Market Review and the Physical Infrastructure market review with the expected introduction of an unrestricted duct and pole access remedy.
Ofcom also references the work it is undertaking around Brexit and European legislation and how international cooperation with other bodies is expected to continue.
Ofcom has today published information on the changes underway in the UK’s telecoms networks as phone companies are moving their landline customers off the traditional network (PSTN) and onto the newer ‘voice over internet protocol (VOIP)’ digital technology which requires a broadband connection.