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.
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.
The test projects include improving fan experiences at O2 arena and MK Dons stadium and trialling 5G-powered cargo ports and boosting tourism sites such as the Eden Project. The BBC series Green Planet will also use 5G through a new augmented reality app, fronted by Sir David Attenborough. The app has been developed by a consortium of leading creative and technology firms, including EE. (more…)
The impact of COVID-19 on the digitally excluded
Broadband Stakeholder Group publishes research by Savanta ComRes into the impact of Covid-19 on digital exclusion in the UK
Broadband Stakeholder Group has published primary research on digital exclusion undertaken by the leading research consultancy, Savanta ComRes. The research closely examines the attitudinal challenges that the UK faces in encouraging greater internet adoption by 3.6 million digitally excluded citizens, alongside the financial, and skills-based aptitudes. The research examines the lived experience of 30 respondents during the first phase of the pandemic. The results suggest that that we may now need to broaden the scope of policy questions that relate to the pathways online for the digitally excluded.
The qualitative in-depth telephone interviews, undertaken between August and September 2020 by Savanta ComRes, highlighted the following findings:
- Internet adoption was primarily driven by social needs during lockdown restrictions and the physical separation from family and friends; with entertainment or online shopping purposes being more secondary drivers and benefits
- Concerns surrounding the benefit and value of digital connectivity and a lack of digital skills were key contributors to digital exclusion, with responders citing inability to decipher the steps to go online or build the digital literacy skills required. However, notably, attitudinal factors related to a perceived lack of need contributed to digital exclusion, with some respondents not seeing the benefits of learning digital literacy skills.
- Respondents cited the negative aspects of being online, such as the ‘keyboard warrior syndrome’ linked to the rudeness of people who are compulsively wedded to their digital devices, as a reason for not adopting digital skills during lockdown. However, for some parents digital literacy was required for their children’s educational needs to do online classes and homework.
- On a more positive front, fears around scamming, digital fraud, and identify theft that online adopters held prior to going online pre-pandemic have proved unfounded, prompting many to be grateful that they had to develop digital literacy skills.
The announcement today builds on the earlier government update, setting out that a further 250,000 English homes and businesses are now eligible for boosted funding from 17 English councils for the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
More than £22 million of additional funding has been provided by local councils to top-up the values of the vouchers in their areas. The Scheme targets areas where the cost of building new gigabit broadband infrastructure is likely to be too high for commercial operators to cover alone. Since May 2019, vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small and medium sized businesses and up to £1,500 for residential premises have been available to cover these costs in rural areas across the UK. (more…)
DCMS has published a BDUK paper on the benefits of gigabit-capable connectivity made possible through the DCMS Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme which ran from March 2018 to May 2020.
High level findings:
- Gigabit voucher recipients are generally positive about their fibre connection.
- Residents reported mixed experiences; for some the connection does not make a huge difference while for others it provides confidence in considering future plans. Residents in rural areas reported lower level use, for example daily communications, online finance and entertainment.
- SMEs are using connections at low levels for general admin in care homes, online retail, event management and outdoor cinema events. SMEs reported higher level use and include industries such as gaming, TV and film, and digital content.
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. (more…)
Ofcom’s 2019 Connected Nations report, released today, sets out this year’s developments in broadband and mobile services, availability and coverage.
Leading the data is the nearly three million UK homes that can now access full-fibre broadband – 10% of all homes – and 1.5 million more than last year.
Overall superfast broadband coverage is now around 95%, which means that the vast majority of homes can access download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s. Take-up of superfast packages has increased by 20% in twelve months, but Ofcom suggests millions more could get faster internet by upgrading. (more…)
Proposals to implement the new European Electronic Communications Code
Ofcom has published a consultation on a range of measures protect broadband, mobile, pay TV and landline phone customers and help ensure they get a fair deal. The proposals respond to changes to the European regulatory framework. The Government consulted earlier this year on how to reflect these changes in UK law. Responses are due by 3 March 2020. Ofcom plans to publish a statement in Q1 2020/21.
As part of Openreach’s plan to support the migration of telephone services onto IP technology – the move to All-IP – as well as upgrade its access network to full-fibre, the organization has applied to Ofcom for several rule waivers. Ofcom has opened a consultation that will run until 06 January 2020.
The plan is to carry out two trials. In Salisbury, Openreach will test the processes for migrating customers to full-fibre services and, ultimately, withdrawing legacy copper-based services. The Mildenhall trial will test the procedure for withdrawing Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) and migrating customers to replacement services.
Proposals for a change in UK broadband policy have sparked interest in government interventions in broadband elsewhere, and in particular in Australia’s National Broadband Network.
This note sets out Australia’s history with the NBN, and its consequences.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was asked by Government in October 2018 to review the regulation of the UK’s energy, telecoms and water sectors
In February 2019 a Call for Evidence was published asking for opinions of where economic regulation has failed or succeeded in facilitating future investment needs, promoting competition and innovation and in meeting the needs of both current and future consumers. The study also considered the full range of potential implications of any changes with a focus on affordability and protection of vulnerable customers.
DCMS is consulting on its approach to implementing the key articles of the European Electronic Communications Code, which updates the regulatory framework governing the telecoms sector across the EU. The consultation document assumes a post-EU Exit implementation period until at least December 31st2020.
The revised Directive coming out of the EU intends to incentivise investment in very high-capacity broadband networks, support 5G rollout by promoting more efficient spectrum management, and protect and engage consumers. Internet phone and messaging services will be brought for the first time into scope of telecoms regulation.
The Government sets out three options for transposition of articles that potentially make substantive changes to access and investment incentives, radio spectrum, consumer protection and universal service obligations. These options include maintain the status quo, transposing the minimum requirements or adopting an alternative approach to transposition.
Throughout the consultation the Government seeks to ensure that the strategic goals set out in its FTIR remain consistent with regulatory changes from the transposition. The closing date is September 10th.
Ofcom has published its work plan for 2019/2020 laying out its priorities and projects for the coming financial year following consultation with the public and industry. The four main focus areas for Ofcom are:
* Better broadband – this will include the implementation of the broadband Universal Service Obligation and supporting investment in fibre though duct and pole access – and better mobile – through auctioning more spectrum to boost rural reception and preparing for 5G.
* Fairness for customers – to ensure the fairer treatment of customers with fairer and clearer pricing and more transparency around deals availability. Ofcom will also be increasing the budget for its Communications Consumer panel.
* Supporting UK broadcasting – Ofcom will look to support regional TV productions and review the BBC’s news and current affairs programming and commercial activities as well as ensure that public service channels remain easily locatable in the face of technology developments.
* Online harms – reflecting the growing concerns around protecting people online and to ensure that audiences understand better the online world, Ofcom will carry out more work around media literacy and research into specific harms to include awareness raising.
Ofcom has updated its plan following the Government’s publication of its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities covering telecoms, spectrum and the postal service to reflect the priorities that were set by DCMS.
Whilst there are few surprises in the specific projects proposed for the year, with many ongoing and rolling over from last year, the first quarter should see Statements on the Broadband USO, the completion of the assessment for both the Business Connectivity Market Review and the Physical Infrastructure market review with the expected introduction of an unrestricted duct and pole access remedy.
Ofcom also references the work it is undertaking around Brexit and European legislation and how international cooperation with other bodies is expected to continue.
Ofcom has today published information on the changes underway in the UK’s telecoms networks as phone companies are moving their landline customers off the traditional network (PSTN) and onto the newer ‘voice over internet protocol (VOIP)’ digital technology which requires a broadband connection.