Mobile

Wholesale Voice Markets Review 2021–26

Ofcom has published how it will regulate the markets that underpin landline and mobile telephone calls in the UK, for the period 2021-26.

On call termination, Ofcom is capping termination rates for calls made and received in the UK, based on the cost of connecting a call.

  • For calls to mobiles, the cap will be 0.379p per minute next year (lower than the current cap of 0.468p per minute).
  • The same cap will continue to apply to calls to ‘070’ numbers.
  • For calls to landlines, the current cap of 0.0292p per minute will continue to apply in real terms.
  • Incoming calls to the UK from abroad should be no more than the rate they are charged when their customers make calls to that international destination.

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Spectrum auction moves to the negotiation period

Following the announcement of the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz band principal stage winners, Ofcom has confirmed that the auction has moved into a period of negotiation. Bidders have the opportunity to negotiate the frequency positions among themselves in order to facilitate trades to join together the frequencies they have secured with spectrum they already hold in the wider 3.4-3.8 GHz band.

The first phase of this negotiation period runs until 16 April 2021. If a second phase is required, this is expected to take place between 19 and 23 April 2021.

Full details of the various stages of the auction can be found here.

Ofcom publishes the outcome of its Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review

After launching its consultation in January 2020, Ofcom has published a statement ‘Promoting investment and competition in fibre networks – Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review 2021-26‘ in which it identifies BT as having market power in the provision of physical telecoms infrastructure, and wholesale markets underpinning broadband and leased line services (except in Central London). New regulations apply to BT from April 2021 until March 2026.  (more…)

Ofcom Spectrum auction – principal stage results published

Ofcom has announced the outcome of the first round of the auction which has raised £1,356,400,000 for the Treasury.

Results:

  • EE Limited has won 2×10 MHz of paired frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band for £280,000,000; 20 MHz of supplementary downlink spectrum in the 700 MHz band for £4,000,000; and 40 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band for £168,000,000.
  • Hutchison 3G UK Limited has won 2×10 MHz of paired frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band for £280,000,000.
  • Vodafone Limited has won 40 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band for £176,400,000.
  • Telefónica UK Limited has won 2×10 MHz of paired frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band for £280,000,000, and 40 MHz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band for £168,000,000.

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Ofcom spectrum auction starts today

After a pause in the process, bidding in the principal stage begins today. The UK’s four main mobile networks – EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 – will bid for spectrum in two different frequency bands:

  • The 700 MHz band: 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band is being released. These airwaves are ideal for providing wide area coverage – including in the countryside.
  • The 3.6-3.8 GHz band: 120 MHz of spectrum in 3.6-3.8 GHz band is being released. These airwaves are part of the primary band for 5G and capable of boosting mobile data capacity, carrying lots of data-hungry connections.

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Shared Rural Network (SRN) – transparency commitment publication

The government has published a transparency notice which provides information on how the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme meets the subsidy principles set out in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

The government announced in March last year that it had agreed a £1 billion deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to deliver the SRN. The network will be underpinned by spectrum licence coverage commitments on individual mobile networks to deliver 95% geographic coverage. The programme is made up of private and publicly funded elements: (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.

 

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…)

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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Ofcom Connected Nations and infrastructure reports 2020

This year’s Connection Nations Report states that despite the high demand throughout the pandemic leading to significant changes to the use of their services, the fixed and mobile networks have coped well. A shift to more people being at home drove increased demand on daytime home broadband traffic, and mobile networks saw record numbers of calls made during the first UK-wide lockdown. Both broadband and mobile services have remained resilient as networks put in place measures to manage the extra demand.

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Ofcom’s proposed workplan 2021/22

Ofcom is consulting on its draft 2021/22 Plan of Work which sets out its proposed strategic priorities and includes the following:

  • Investment in strong, secure networks

Supporting ongoing investment in faster broadband and better-quality mobile networks and working with industry to ensure they are safe, secure and resilient.

  • Getting everyone connected

Working to ensure people and businesses can access key communications services – including in the hardest to reach locations. It includes monitoring the delivery of the universal broadband service and the Shared Rural Network.  (more…)

Ofcom’s ten-year spectrum management strategy

Ofcom has published its consultation ‘Supporting the UK’s wireless future – Our spectrum management strategy for the 2020s’ setting out its plans to manage the use of the spectrum over the next ten years.

The proposals are grouped into three strategic themes:

  • Supporting wireless innovation
  • Licensing to fit local and national services
  • Promoting spectrum sharing

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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…)