Ofcom’s Annual Plan 2016/2017Charles Wood
Ofcom has this week published their Annual Plan for 2016/2017, outlining their planned initiatives to deliver the best outcomes for consumers in the context of changes in the market and ongoing reviews of regulatory frameworks both at UK and EU levels.
As outlined in the Digital Communications review, improving competition at the infrastructure level will be a clear focus of Ofcom’s work this year. Driving out coverage will be another key objective; the implementation of the Government’s broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) will translate into Ofcom detailing the technical and regulatory requirements of the USO and exploring its funding mechanism.
As announced at the end of February, Ofcom plans this year on strengthening Openreach’s independence from BT, and opening up access to Openreach’s infrastructure (telegraph poles and ducts) to allow competing operators to deploy their own fibre networks. Ofcom will also consider further deregulation, depending on the findings of their forthcoming market review programme. This also includes delivering a step-change in the quality of service delivered by the telecoms market, particularly that of Openreach.
Ofcom also plans on exploring further SMEs’ specific needs and experiences across the telecommunications market, including their needs in relation to broadband connectivity. The BSG recently published a new model to assess SMEs connectivity requirements and welcomes Ofcom retaining an interest in this area.
Ofcom will continue its work on providing information to consumers on fixed broadband speeds and availability, mobile coverage, pricing, quality of customer service, ability to switch providers, etc.
Ofcom have led the way in discussions around how the general quality of experience (QoE) in the delivery of a broadband connection is a key element of the consumer experience. Whilst there doesn’t appear to be a focus on this issue within the Ofcom’s Plan, we can expect elements of this to remain a part of Ofcom’s output and we will be carrying out work on QoE, as announced in our work programme.
As we outlined last week, the implementation of the Government’s proposed Broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) will heavily involve Ofcom. The BSG recently hosted an event on the issue highlighting the challenges of defining the USO, not only in terms of speeds, but also in relation to coverage, affordability and financing. We will carry out further work on this issue and look forward to engaging with Ofcom and wider stakeholders in this area.