Government

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…)

UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement

The UK and European Union finally agreed on a deal that will define the future relationship.

Briefly, on tariffs, there will be 100% liberalisation – zero tariffs and zero quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin. A broad range of other areas such as investment, competition, state aid, tax transparency and data protection is covered, as well as the ability for the UK’s continued participation in several flagship EU programmes for the period 2021-2027, subject to a financial contribution by the UK to the EU budget. Cooperation on foreign policy, external security or defence are not included.

A summary explainer document is available here

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Next steps in Government’s £5 billion gigabit broadband plan

DCMS has launched a technical consultation on its draft procurement strategy for the UK Gigabit Programme setting out plans to connect the first one million homes and businesses and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK by 2025. The consultation seeks views to help target delivery of the programme, which includes demand-led approaches such as the voucher scheme and the new ‘outside-in’ supply-side interventions. The new procurements for gigabit infrastructure will begin in Spring 2021 and build is expected to begin at the end of 2021/early 2022.

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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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BSG Paper ‘COVID & accelerated digitalisation: the implications for broadband’

The UK is undergoing a fundamental re-evaluation of the value that telecoms bring to the UK economy. The pandemic has consolidated the pivotal role that digital connectivity plays in underpinning the economy and wider society. Broadband and mobile connectivity have been the backbone of the accelerated drive to digital adoption, as the paper by Robert Kenny of Communications Chambers sets out. (more…)

5G supply chain diversification strategy

Government announced its £250m strategy setting out targeted plans to diversify the global telecoms supply market. It focuses on three key areas of activity:

  • Supporting incumbent suppliers to ensure their resilience and ability to supply the market in the near term, while supporting their transition into the emerging market structure;
  • attracting new suppliers into the UK market to build resilience and competition, prioritising deployments that are in line with government’s longer-term vision; and
  • accelerating open-interface solutions and deployment so that the UK is not reliant on any single vendor and begins to realise the long term vision for a more open and innovative market.

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2020-21 Spending Review and National Infrastructure Strategy

In his Spending Review statement today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that borrowing is expected to reach £394bn for the current fiscal year (19% of GDP) which is the highest recorded level of borrowing in peacetime. He spoke of three priorities: getting the country through coronavirus, stronger public services and delivering record investment plans in infrastructure (including faster broadband for over five million premises in the UK and 4G mobile coverage to 95%). The government also confirmed £3bn for a three-year Restart programme to help a million people who have been unemployed for over a year to find jobs. A levelling up pot of £4bn will also be available for local infrastructure projects. (more…)

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…)

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.