News

Prime Minister and Digital Secretary praise broadband companies

The Prime Minister and Digital Secretary met with the CEOs of the major broadband organisations today and praised the industry for creating more than 22,000 jobs over the last year. They welcomed the commitment from the organisations to help the nation build back better from the pandemic with gigabit broadband rollout, and underlined the government’s support to help industry’s efforts to connect as many homes and businesses as possible by 2025. The government has increased its forecast and new figures show rollout will reach 60 per cent by the end of 2021 (up from 50 per cent), putting the UK on track to be among the fastest build rates in Europe. (more…)

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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Government’s Plan for Growth

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today published a joint open letter to businesses on the Government’s Plan for Growth.

The Plan for Growth builds on the best of the Industrial Strategy from 2017 and supports the transition to net zero by 2050. It sets out the government’s path to invest in three pillars – infrastructure, skills, and innovation. The focus is creating and supporting jobs, helping to drive growth, and seizing opportunities from Britain’s independence. The Build Back Better Business Council has been convened to draw on the expertise of industry and government to ensure that the plan for growth is delivered successfully and in partnership with business. Today’s meeting will look at the innovation pillar and will discuss the government’s upcoming Innovation Strategy, due to be published in the Summer. (more…)

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.

Project Gigabit (Phase 1b): Open Market Review request for information

The Building Digital UK (BDUK) team has launched an Open Market Review (OMR) request for information (RFI) to help identify areas needing government intervention. This follows an earlier OMR and RFI for Cumbria. Early market research is an essential part of the team’s engagement with industry to shape public investment. The results of this OMR will provide a better understanding of the broadband infrastructure already in place, and where there are plans for investment over the next three years. The RFI will enable BDUK to make a significant step in the design of the areas to be targeted by the new procurements and contracts. (more…)

Gigabit plans for Scotland

Under Project Gigabit which was announced today, the UK government has pledged a further £2 million to extend investment to NHS Scotland sites in isolated areas of the country.

91 GP surgeries and community hospitals in rural parts of Scotland – including remote island services on Arran, Jura, Lewis, Mull, Shetland and Orkney – will benefit from gigabit broadband upgrades. A further £1 million has also been pledged to extend full fibre to even more schools, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries across the Highlands. Public buildings will have faster internet speeds from a £7.3 million total investment through the government’s Local Full Fibre Networks scheme. In the northern isles of Yell and Unst in Shetland, work as part of a £2 million project to connect 21 schools, council buildings and other public sites to fibre broadband has now been completed. Up to 37 sites are expected to receive connections in March with all due to completed by March 2022.  (more…)

Government launches ‘Project Gigabit’ 

The government has announced ‘Project Gigabit’, its mission to deliver gigabit-capable broadband across the UK. The project will be a series of phases, with the first phase providing one million hard-to-reach buildings with gigabit coverage and new funding for gigabit vouchers. An extra £210 million worth of vouchers will be released to help those with slow speeds, and another £110 million will connect up to 7,000 rural GP surgeries, libraries and schools. Up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley will be the first to benefit as part of the project, with contracts for these first areas going to tender in the spring. (more…)

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…)

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…)