Ofcom

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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Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum publishes its 2021/22 work plan

In July 2020 the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) was set up to regulate digital platforms, bringing together the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA),  Ofcom, and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The DRCF has published its 2021/22 Work Plan setting out a roadmap for how all three regulators will increase the scope and scale of their co-operation, with a focus on three priority areas: (more…)

Further support for phone and broadband customers during the pandemic

Customers struggling to pay their phone or broadband bill during the Covid-19 pandemic are being asked to contact their provider to see how they can help. As we see a cautious and very gradual lifting of lockdown measures and extended furlough, people are more dependant than ever on their telecoms service. As we have reported many times, industry initiatives are already in place. Ofcom recently wrote to providers asking them to revisit the support they have available and calling for further measures in line with the vulnerability guide.

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.

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…)

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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Implementation of the EECC

In October Ofcom confirmed a package of rules to implement the EECC covering landline, broadband, mobile, and pay-TV. Ofcom also consulted on several minor, consequential changes to the General Conditions of Entitlement, as well as changes to reflect the end of the transition period under the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In a statement published today, Ofcom confirmed that the majority of minor changes to the General Conditions, Metering and Billing Direction and National Telephone Numbering Plan will come into effect in December 2021. However, the changes that reflect the end of the transition period under the EU Withdrawal agreement will come into force on 31 December this year.

In the new year, Ofcom plans to consult on a process for residential customers switching voice and/or broadband services, and will separately be providing an update on its work with the industry on the availability of a video relay service for British Sign Language users to enable effective communication with the emergency services.