News

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…)

GigaTAG interim report

BSG is a member of the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) which is looking into how to stimulate demand among consumers and businesses for gigabit-capable broadband. The GigaTAG has drawn upon our report by WIK-Consult ‘Moving to a fibre-enabled UK: International experiences on barriers to gigabit adoption‘.

Following an earlier consultation, the GigaTAG has published its interim report which is open for consultation until 05 February 2021.

 

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.

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…)

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…)

Providers continue to help customers struggling to pay their phone or broadband bill

In March,  providers agreed on a set of measures which included removing data allowance caps on current fixed broadband services and offering new mobile and landline packages to keep people connected. Vulnerable customers who were self-isolating could receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines could not be carried out. Over and above this they supported the NHS, including zero-rating data access and ensuring that the new emergency hospitals had connectivity.

Ofcom recently wrote to the telcos calling on them to revisit the support against Ofcom’s vulnerability guide to ensure customers who are struggling to pay their bills during this latest lockdown period are supported. This includes offering payment holidays or deferrals and freezing additional fees and charges where customers are experiencing problem debt.