BSG welcomes the conclusion of a collaborative initiative between the UK major telecoms providers, the Digital Secretary and Ofcom which targets customers in need additional support to stay connected during the current pandemic. Yesterday’s announcement sets out a number of substantial commitments to support and protect vulnerable consumers and those who may become so arising from changes in circumstances brought on by Covid-19. These measures build upon, and reinforce, the Stay Connected campaign launched last week.
The Government has announced new plans to safeguard the UK’s telecoms network and pave way for fast, reliable and secure 5G and full fibre connectivity. This clarification is critical for a number of UK infrastructure providers who sit on the Broadband Stakeholder Group, and to inform decisions in relation to Huawei in the rollout of the 5G and full fibre, gigabit-capable networks.
A report published today by the CMA is a progress report setting out the work and progress that has been made over the last 12 months.
In September 2018, CMA received a super-complaint from Citizens Advice. There followed an investigation into the loyalty penalty in 5 markets: mobile phone contracts, broadband, household insurance, cash savings and mortgages. The CMA uncovered continual year on year price rises, costly exit fees from contracts, time-consuming and difficult processes to cancel contracts or switch to new providers, and auto-renewal policies that switched unsuspecting customers onto more expensive contracts, often without sufficient warning. In its response to the super-complaint, the CMA made a number of recommendations to Ofcom, the FCA and other regulators to help them better protect consumers. It also launched its own investigations into auto-renewal practices in two sectors. (more…)
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 has published various consultations on the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum auctions. The first sets out its revised proposals for awarding spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz frequency bands. The second sets out the auction regulations for the bands. The closing date for both is 9 December 2019.
The ONS this week published their annual Internet Access – households and individuals report.
The release highlighted a number of trends which we have witnessed over the last few years, not least that household internet access has largely plateaued;
With a high penetration of households and more people using mobile internet than ever before, understandably usage remains extremely high with 87% of adults using the internet daily in 2019. Whilst this includes the traditional demographic trend of younger people tending to use the internet more, 2019 saw the first year in which more than half of adults aged 65 years and over shopped online;
Of course this still leaves a significant minority of people and households who do not have internet access. The reasons for this are relatively well understood in terms of access to connectivity, skills and financial restrictions. However, the overriding factor for the ONS release was attitude/awareness with 61% of households who do not have internet access saying they did not need it.
This ties in with the BSG’s recent research on digital inclusion.
The recent update to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report – which provides information on coverage and service availability for both internet and mobile phones – reveals that ultrafast broadband speeds (defined as download speeds over 300Mbit/s) are now available to properties in just over half the country. Superfast speeds of at least 30Mbit/s have reached 95% of UK premises and full-fibre broadband has risen a percentage point to 7% coverage, or 300,000 additions in the four months since the last report.
The National Infrastructure is looking for opinions on the regulation of the energy, water and telecoms sector – both current and future changes that may impact on and affect these industries. The call for evidence just published will support the regulation study that the NIC has undertaken at the behest of the Government in October 2018. (more…)
The Government yesterday laid out its proposals for the future of mobile roaming in Europe should the UK leave the EU without a deal in place. As previously set out in the technical notice published in September 2018, should an implementation period be agreed, the current rules governing using a mobile phone in Europe will remain in effect until the end of 2020 and thereafter would depend on the terms agreed in the Future Economic Partnership. (more…)
Ofcom has published a report on the media use, access, attitudes and understanding amongst children aged 3 – 15, and how parents manage this usage. The report revealed that whilst TV sets and tablets were used the most, TV viewing on a TV set is steadily declining, with consuming content becoming a more solitary activity and mobile viewing becoming increasingly popular. The reduction in TV viewing has been replaced for 3-4 year olds by spending an additional hour online, or gaming for 12-15s. (more…)
The end of 2018 saw Ofcom launching a campaign to motivate people to get better broadband deals and understand the market better. This follows Ofcom’s own research revealing that whilst 94% of homes and businesses have access to super-fast broadband, take up remains at fewer than half.
- The UK is moving to an all-IP (internet based) network for voice services
- The current analogue system, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), will come to the end of its life in the mid-2020s with transition also needed to prepare for our full-fibre future
- As well as providing voice services, many other applications, such as social care and security alarms, use the PSTN
- The report provides lessons from four international case studies which are further along their migration path, giving evidence on how the UK can prepare for a successful and seamless migration from the PSTN to all-IP networks.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has published a report on “Preparing the UK for an All-IP future: experiences from other countries”. It outlines the lessons the UK can learn from four international case studies as we migrate from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to all-IP voice services and networks.
The PSTN provides voice and some data services within the UK. It is nearing the end of its life and is increasingly expensive to maintain. A move to all-IP networks lowers costs, brings additional benefits to voice services and helps prepare for the eventual retirement of copper networks – a necessary move as we forge our full-fibre future.
The migration is necessary but raises two particular challenges. The first is the continued provision of voice services, in particular, resilient access to emergency services in the event of a mains power failure which is especially important for the vulnerable and those who are landline-only users. The second is around the data services that use the PSTN. Some of these will not be compatible with an all-IP system as they rely on the analogue capabilities of the old network.
In order to ensure that the UK’s migration is as seamless as possible, the BSG commissioned Plum Consulting to analyse four international case studies. Germany, France, Switzerland and New Zealand were chosen due to the different stages of their migration and their differing regulatory structures.
Guidance on how to communicate and protect vulnerable consumers who may be particularly dependent on voice services is a key feature of the report. As the migration will be led by individual communication providers, it is essential that the industry effectively coordinates its messages to both consumers and providers of services that are dependent or reliant on the PSTN. Other insights focused on the benefits of minimising the forced migration of users away from the PSTN as well as the potential technical challenge posed by the UK’s approach to number portability.
Richard Hooper, chair of the BSG, said: “The UK is well placed to manage a successful migration from the PSTN to all-IP networks. Industry is already taking measures such as providing test facilities to companies that provide data services. However, this report makes clear that we need to continue to strengthen this work to avoid the pitfalls other countries have made and protect vulnerable consumers. It is particularly urgent that industry works together with Ofcom and ensures that the messaging to consumers from communication providers is consistent.”
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.
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.