News

Ofcom sets out its thinking for 2019

Ofcom this week published its Proposed Annual Plan 2019/ 20 Making Communications work for everyone. The final plan will be published in March 2019 following consultation which will run until February 8th.

Priorities will be focused around ensuring universal availability for both broadband and mobile coverage; looking to strengthen public service broadcasting; protecting consumers against unfair pricing; and investigating the scope for regulation of harmful online content.

2019 will see Ofcom designate broadband Universal Service Providers and set out the conditions that will apply to them in accordance with the legislation laid earlier this year providing for access to high speed broadband being a legal right.  Focus will also be on improving mobile coverage both indoors and rurally, and the measuring and reporting to consumers. (more…)

Government publish no-deal legislation for telecoms

The Government last week published the Statutory Instrument (SI) covering the telecoms regulatory framework under the EU Withdrawal Act.

The affirmative SI will need to be actively approved by both Houses of Parliament and is largely technical in nature – correcting references or processes in legislation (eg Communications Act 2003) that were established to ensure a harmonized application of regulation across the EU. Naturally, as the UK will no longer be in the EU these are being removed.

However, there are some amendments which are more significant. In particular Government has decided that it does not need to replicate the EU Commission’s oversight role of Ofcom with a new third-party body. In the explanatory notes the Government explains that they understand the Commission’s role to be one of ensuring a standardized application of regulatory approaches across member states. Although most in industry would suggest that such an oversight body (rather than the Commission per se) provides a useful and cost-effective route to providing a challenge to regulatory decisions.

This goes against the recommendations in the BSG’s Brexit paper in which we argued that such a review process allowed for proper scrutinisation of decisions and helped maintain quality decision-making by Ofcom. It was assumed that the Competition and Markets Authority would be a suitable body, but Government has felt that this was unnecessary. Given that industry’s preference is to prevent a cliff-edge exit of the EU it is unlikely that these concerns will turn into full-blown objections but depending on the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU it will be interesting to see how thinking on the regulatory framework develops.

In terms of Ofcom’s interaction with BEREC, full membership is restricted to the regulatory authorities of EU member states. Whilst Ofcom would be allowed to be an observer, Government has also made clear that it would be open to Ofcom participating further should this be made possible under the new BEREC Regulation.

Government outlines telecoms investment pipeline

The week the Government set out their analysis of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, including investment in digital infrastructure out to 2020/21 financial year (h/t ISPreview).

The report illustrates the level of public and private sector investment into the UK’s key infrastructure sectors, extending out 30 years in some sectors. For Digital Communications it sets out investment for the next three years which aligns with current Government funding programmes and given that most companies have not made public commitments beyond then.

An appendix to the report contains further details of individual company’s commitments – such as Virgin Media’s Project Lightning – through to Government projects for clearing the 700MHz spectrum band.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on these funding commitments next year as the need for Government investment increases in order to deliver the outside in approach for full fibre investment outlined in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review. 

Autumn Budget 2018: Austerity moves aside as discipline takes over

Today’s Autumn Budget announcement yielded few surprises for the telecoms sector. Chancellor Philip Hammond, in what should be the UK’s last budget as part of the EU bloc, revealed that £200 million had been earmarked for programs to drive out fibre networks rurally across the UK (starting with the Borderlands, Cornwall and the Welsh Valleys), in line with the Government’s ambition to see nationwide coverage of full fibre by 2033, with 5G by 2027.

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Goals for a Gigabit Europe

A WIK conference held last week in Brussels sought to examine the likely impact of the recently agreed EU Electronic Communications Code especially as regards the EU’s goal to be a Gigabit society with greater fibre deployment, in line with the UK’s ambition to see nationwide full fibre roll out by 2033. The Code once fully adopted will have a two year time frame before the new rules will apply across Europe.

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Regulatory barriers continue to hinder European investment – at the FT ETNO Summit

The mood from The Financial Time-ETNO Summit today in Brussels was one of tentative, if not forced, optimism amongst the background feeling of missed opportunities from the recently agreed European Telecoms Code and the repeated sentiment that Europe is risking its potential for investment from the tech sector with its fragmented regulatory approach and low rates of return on investment.

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Broadband and mobile coverage sees continued improvements

Ofcom today published revised figures on broadband and mobile network coverage across the UK updating the Connected Nations report to include data from May this year. The figures show steady increases in the availability of both fixed and mobile services, with the number of premises unable to get decent broadband now under 3%. The Government’s Universal Service Obligation, the details of which Ofcom is currently finalising, will target these properties. (more…)

Government publishes a toolkit to support street works

A key focus for the Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review was around barrier busting – alleviating the cost to network deployment. As part of this thinking, DCMS has published a toolkit outlining good practice and recommendations for the street works process of deploying fiber across the UK. The framework is intended to guide local authorities and operators and contractors towards working more collaboratively and ultimately enabling a more efficient roll out.  (more…)

A long read – Forging our Full-Fibre and 5G Future

The Government has announced the conclusion of its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review. The Review which was announced in the Industrial Strategy sets out the targets and overall policy framework for the sector for the next 15 years.

The headlines are a confirmation of the Government’s targets for full fibre coverage to reach 15 million premises by 2025 and full coverage by 2033, with 5G coverage by 2027. The targets and accompanying policy shifts – in particular the change in competition models – mark a significant evolution in the Government’s approach.

Commenting on the publication of the report the BSG’s Chair, Richard Hooper CBE, commented The BSG welcomes the Government’s publication of its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review and is pleased to be playing a useful role in barrier-busting in implementing fixed and mobile networks, and in PSTN switch-off which is the important precursor to fibre switchover.”

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Forging our 5G Future: Barriers and Solutions to network deployment

The Broadband Stakeholder Group has published a report on ‘Lowering barriers to 5G deployment‘. It outlines the challenges and solutions to deploying new mobile infrastructure necessary to meet the UK Government’s ambition to be a 5G leader.

The report – ‘Lowering barriers to 5G deployment’ – is the outcome of a study by Analysys Mason researching barriers to 5G deployment from both industry and local authority perspectives in the UK, identifying key challenges faced during the deployment process. The report aims to assist the UK Government in delivering its ambition to be a 5G leader by identifying and proposing solutions to current and potential barriers to network deployment.

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