Author - Gulistan Ladha

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill passes through Parliament

The Telecoms Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill has successfully passed through parliament and is set to become law.

As a reminder, the Bill was introduced in late 2019 with the aim of allowing fixed broadband providers to gain access to multiple dwelling buildings (blocks of residential flats and apartments) in order to deploy, upgrade or maintain fixed-line broadband connections where a landlord has repeatedly failed to respond. The forthcoming law will place an obligation on landlords, via the Electronic Communications Code, to facilitate the deployment of digital infrastructure and enable providers to use magistrates courts to gain entry to properties.

In parallel, the consultation on further potential changes to the Electronic Communications Code is is underway on whether to make further changes to help improve the process between landowners and providers.

 

The Chancellor’s Budget and The Mayor’s London Plan

The Budget announcement included the confirmation of the new UK Infrastructure Bank to be based in Leeds and supported by an initial £12bn of capital investment, the new Help to Grow scheme and the new super-deduction.

What we know about the Infrastructure Bank is that it will provide financing support across the UK, offering a range of financing tools including debt, hybrid products, equity and guarantees to support private infrastructure projects. It will begin operating in spring 2021. The Help to Grow scheme will offer up to 130,000 companies across the UK a digital and management boost and will rely on access to digital infrastructure, and a new 130% first-year capital allowance for qualifying plant and machinery assets (super-deduction) with a 50% first-year allowance for qualifying special rate assets. This is expected to cut companies’ tax bill by 25p for every £1 they invest in new equipment. (more…)

Central Scotland to benefit from UK government’s gigabit programme

The government has announced that £4.5 million of the UK government’s nationwide gigabit programme will be spent on more than 5,300 homes and businesses in Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Stirlingshire, Greater Glasgow and Lothian. The premises were due to benefit from superfast broadband through the Scottish Government’s Reach 100 (R100) programme. However, on the basis that the UK Gigabit Programme would have to revisit the premises at some point in the future to convert them to FTTP, it made more sense to go directly to gigabit capability thereby reducing costs. (more…)

UK Gigabit Programme: Cumbria Public Review

As part of the UK Gigabit Programme, BDUK has issued a request for information on a new procurement to extend coverage of gigabit-capable broadband across Cumbria. Last November BDUK conducted an Open Market Review (OMR) which requested information from suppliers regarding details and supporting evidence of any current or planned investment over the next three years in broadband infrastructure in the county. The OMR indicated that planned commercial coverage for gigabit-capable broadband will reach approximately 141,034 premises within the next three years, and will leave the remaining 143,864 premises without access to gigabit-capable broadband. (more…)

House of Commons Science and Technology Committee publishes its report on 5G market diversification

The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s Second Report 5G market diversification and wider lessons for critical and emerging technologies highlights the dependency of the UK’s 5G rollout on just two vendors, posing risks to network resilience and security.

Drawing on evidence taken throughout the course of the inquiry, the report warns against repeating mistakes as new and important technologies evolve. MPs have called on the government to publish a white paper within 12 months with an action plan. The paper should assess the risks of global technological divergence of standards, identify critical emerging technologies, risks of dependency on high-risk vendors, and set out the government’s proposed response. The report sets out a series of recommendations for the current telecommunications rollout, recently addressed in the government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy. (more…)

Ofcom consultation on new residential broadband switching process

Ofcom is consulting on new plans for a new ‘one touch’ switching process to make it easier for all residential broadband customers to switch service across different providers.

Following an Ofcom rule change in 2015, customers switching between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s copper network can already follow a process where the gaining provider manages the switch. This latest proposal is to enable switching across different networks, for example, from a provider using the Openreach network to one using CityFibre’s, or from Virgin Media to Hyperoptic. Industry has been working to design this process for residential customers who want to switch fixed voice and broadband services. (more…)

BDUK Superfast Programme evaluation

The DCMS commissioned Ipsos Mori to carry out a State Aid evaluation of the UK National Broadband Scheme which was established in 2010 to help extend high-speed broadband connectivity to areas, including those that were not expected to benefit from commercial rollouts. The scheme has reached over 96% of premises in the UK today and provided £2.7bn worth of economic benefits.   (more…)

DCMS consultation on changes to the Electronic Communications Code

DCMS has published a consultation on changes to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) which is the legal framework underpinning agreements between landowners and communications operators in the UK. The Code was substantially reformed in 2017 to make it easier and faster for apparatus to be deployed, maintained, shared and upgraded in rural areas, balancing the need for digital infrastructure with the rights of landowners and other site providers. (more…)

700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum auction – update on timings

Last year Ofcom announced that the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz 5G Auction would begin this month (to improve coverage and speed of 5G mobile broadband networks). There was a pause in the process due to the current COVID-19 lockdown and it has now been confirmed the start of the auction will be in March 2021.  Ofcom will continue to monitor the situation in the meantime.

Earlier this month Ofcom announced the four bidders as EE Limited, Hutchison 3G UK Limited, Telefónica UK Limited and Vodafone Limited. The regulations for the auction came into force in November 2020.

£940 million of support so far from UK telecoms operators during COVID-19

According to a report by Assembly Research,  the value of the initiatives put in place by the UK telecoms sector amounts to some £940 million, with many likely to remain in place until things return to normal, whatever that may be. Of more than 50 initiatives tracked by Assembly, 20 have directly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable (worth £340m), 19 have been made available to all customers (£250m), six are targeted at key healthcare workers (£220m), and four have aimed to help small and medium-sized businesses recover (£130m). Similar initiatives have been launched around the world which Assembly has been tracking on a country-by-country basis since the start of the pandemic.

 

Ofcom report ‘Technology Futures’

Ofcom published a report that looks at some of the emerging technologies that could shape the way we live, communicate and entertain ourselves in the future. The report highlights potential future developments such as innovative technologies to help providers roll out better mobile and broadband services by using automation and robots, satellite technology that could be used to provide connections for people who live in hard-to-reach areas, developments in the broadcast sector, such as enhanced, bespoke coverage of sporting events, and new immersive technologies that bring a sensory element to communications services.

More projects to trial 5G broadband and wireless technologies

As part of the £200m 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, the Government has announced a further nine UK technology trials under the 5G Create scheme, reflecting a total investment of £28.3m (comprising £15.2m from the Government and £13.1m from the project partners) to help test various new 5G based broadband and wireless technologies. More than half of the projects in this round will use new OpenRAN technology and support greater diversification in the 5G supply chain. (more…)

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…)

Industry supports remote learning during lockdown

Since March 2020 telecoms providers and broadcasters have implemented measures to keep the UK connected. This includes additional help for vulnerable customers, NHS staff, care homes and hospitals. They have offered discounted broadband services or lifted the data caps, given free data packages on mobile, zero-rated websites, WiFi vouchers, paused charges for sports and other channels, and standalone education resources. (more…)