Author - Alex Mather

DCF Report: Diversity in Telecoms

The Digital Connectivity Forum has published a landmark piece of research today, carried out by the leading strategic insight agency Opinium, to assess diversity across the UK telecoms sector.

The snapshot is a pioneering study for the Forum which intends to conduct regular tracking work to assess progress in ensuring a more diverse workforce across the telecoms sector.

The study, which was initiated at the request of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), assessed levels of diversity, including the current state of play across the nine protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The research also looked at attitudes and perceptions amongst the telecoms workforce.

Much work has been carried out in recent years to make the telecoms workforce more representative of that of the UK. However, the report suggests that further action is still needed. Key findings from the research show that:

  • Gender diversity in the sector worsens with age, with 67% of those in the industry over the age of 35 being male.
  • One in six of those working in the telecoms industry has a disability or long-term condition (16%), considerably lower than the proportion of those in the UK workforce who have a disability or condition (26%).
  • Only one in three telecoms employees are aware of their organisations having an active diversity and inclusion culture.

The full report can be read here.

Stephanie Liston, Chair of the Digital Connectivity Forum, said:

“This important research reveals that, despite the progress of recent years, work remains to improve levels of diversity across the telecoms workforce. Having a diverse workforce encourages more creative thinking, drives innovation, and ultimately improves business performance. With a labour market that is increasingly tightened and challenging, it has never been more important for careers in the telecoms sector to appeal to as broad a section of the population as possible.
 
“While there are multiple positive initiatives across the industry – including those that are working to address the lack of gender diversity amongst telecoms professionals – this study reveals some of the challenges that still remain.
 
The Digital Connectivity Forum is committed to working collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders to build on the industry’s positive work so far. This will include the formation of a new diversity and inclusion work group within the DCF.”

About the Research

The Diversity in Telecoms 2022 research comprised of two stages: quantitative and qualitative.

The quantitative research was conducted between the 3 and 8of August 2022 via an online survey with 504 employees working in the UK telecommunications industry. The survey was not confined to DCF sponsor organisations.

The telecoms sample was compared to nationally representative data for UK workers.

Opiniumtook a natural fallout approach of sampling telecoms employees, meaning that working in telecoms was the only criteria for participating in the research, with other characteristics (such as department) falling out naturally. It is important to caveat that the quantitative sample is unusually skewed to Manager+ levels and is not necessarily representative of the sector as a whole. The authors of the report advise treating the insights in this inaugural report as indicative rather than prescriptive to the sector.

The qualitative stage of research featured in-depth video-enabled interviews with three participants working in the telecoms industry which took place between 2 and 7 November. The interviews then informed the three case studies included in the report.

About Opinium

Opinium is an award-winning strategic insight agency built on the belief that in a world of uncertainty and complexity, success depends on the ability to stay on the pulse of what people think, feel and do. Creative and inquisitive, we are passionate about empowering our clients to make the decisions that matter. We work with organisations to define and overcome strategic challenges – helping them to get to grips with the world in which their brands operate. We use the right approach and methodology to deliver robust insights, strategic counsel and targeted recommendations that generate change and positive outcomes.

We’re hiring! Programme Manager – Digital Connectivity Forum

Purpose

The purpose of the Programme Manger role is to lead the development and delivery of the Digital Connectivity Forum’s work programme, working closely with the Head of the organisation in the process.

The DCF’s diverse network includes telecoms operators, manufacturers, ISPs, mobile network operators, broadcasters, new media companies and content producers, as well as central and local government, Ofcom and others.

The DCF works out of the offices of techUK, the trade association representing the tech sector.  techUK supports the work of the DCF and is the employer of DCF staff.  

The current areas of focus for the DCF include how to accelerate the deployment of full fibre and 5G networks as well as incentivising adoption of these technologies, diversity and inclusion, supporting the telecoms sector’s journey towards net zero, the migration to All-IP for voice services, and the future regulatory framework.

The Programme Manager role involves independently leading areas of the DCF work programme and becoming the go-to industry expert on such issues. The ideal candidate will have an excellent understanding of policy development, public affairs, stakeholder management and regulatory affairs. Knowledge and experience of digital connectivity/broadband and the wider technology, media and telecommunications brief, whilst not essential, is highly desirable.

Key Responsibilities

  • Assist the Head of DCF in delivering the work programme; this will involve preparing and writing reports, consultation responses, articles and letters on telecoms policy
  • Engage with DCF stakeholders, including DCMS, Ofcom, sponsors and wider industry on the development of policy positions and the ongoing development of the DCF work programme
  • Monitor ongoing developments in the UK and EU broadband and wider digital connectivity market, policy and regulatory debate, including the analysis of new data regarding broadband and mobile network deployment
  • Represent the DCF in external fora, stakeholder meetings and public events

Competencies

  • Able to work with a large and diverse selection of external stakeholders
  • Able to analyse complex issues and work across the full range of telecoms policy issues
  • Able to communicate complex information clearly and effectively to a broad audience
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent stakeholder management skills
  • An enthusiastic team player who is keen and able to take the initiative
  • Excellent organisational skills

Person Specification

Essential Knowledge and Experience

  • An understanding of the UK and European political systems and policy formulation processes
  • Experience of building networks through personal relationships
  • Experience of managing or supporting multiple projects
  • Ability to use the tools and technologies techUK provides; including but not limited to Microsoft Office 365 suite, mobile and home working software as appropriate, and web tools (training will be provided).

This is a full-time role based out of techUK’s London offices with flexibility for hybrid working. 

This role profile is a guide to the work that is required but does not form part of any contract of employment and may change from time to time to reflect changing circumstances.

The successful candidate must have permission to work in the UK prior to the commencement of employment.

The salary range for this role is £32,000-£44,000 per annum based upon experience plus discretionary bonus and comprehensive benefits.

To apply for this role, please send your application with your salary expectations to [email protected]

DCF Report: The Investment Gap to Full 5G Rollout

The UK is at risk of failing to reap the full benefits of 5G according to a new report published today by the Digital Connectivity Forum, the leading advisory body to UK Government on connectivity. 

The report, The Investment Gap to Full 5G Rollout, written in collaboration with Frontier Economics, examines the capacity of network operators to invest in new high-capacity, high-speed wireless 5G services. 

It finds that the industry can invest approximately £9 billion in new network infrastructure by 2030. It also finds that even this substantial investment falls some way short of the cost of delivering full 5G – estimated by the report to be an additional approximately £23-25 billion. 

The report finds that only this greater level of investment can deliver transformative new services dependent on 5G, such as autonomous vehicles, automated logistics and telemedicine.  

The report also sets out a range of recommendations, from direct support to industry to regulatory and structural reform, which would assist in closing this predicted investment gap and ensuring that the full potential benefits of 5G are realised. 

The full report can be read here.

Alex Mather, Head of the Digital Connectivity Forum said: 

“If you are using a newer smartphone or tablet in many of the UK’s bigger towns and cities, there’s a high chance that you’re already making use of high-speed, high-capacity 5G. The sector is already re-investing these revenues in more locations and more capacity. 

“But 5G isn’t just faster 4G – it has the ability to unlock innovative new uses and technologies, ranging from autonomous vehicles to advanced remote medical services. These technologies have the potential not only to increase the productivity of the nation and boost UK competitiveness, but also to improve the quality of services that the Government provides. 

“Our research finds that there is a real risk of these revolutionary benefits not being realised. To make a reality of the Government’s levelling up agenda, to boost productivity, growth and competitiveness requires action. We therefore encourage the Government and industry to work together to ensure that intensive and timely investment is delivered.”

Introducing the Digital Connectivity Forum

The Digital Connectivity Forum has launched today. The Forum (or DCF) brings together the biggest players in telecoms infrastructure and content creation aligned to a new vision and mission for the UK’s leading advisory body to government on digital connectivity. The Forum will build upon the work of the Broadband Stakeholder Group with a refreshed identity, vision and mission to actively address the transformed connectivity value chain.

With a redefined vision to ensure the UK has an economy and society empowered by seamless digital connectivity, the Forum has been created after extensive discussion among sponsor members and non-members. In late 2021 and early 2022, the Digital Connectivity Forum Executive convened groups of network operators, equipment manufacturers, ISPs, content producers, broadcasters, business groups, government, regulators and representatives of civil society.

The result is a revamped expert body, with an expanded remit proactively to promote seamless connectivity throughout the UK.  We look forward to working across the entire sector value chain and alongside government and regulators. Together with the existing focus on digital infrastructure, the new Digital Connectivity Forum will develop a distinct technology neutral work programme, concentrating on content demand and network design.

Stephanie Liston, Chair of the Digital Connectivity Forum, said:

“The last two decades have seen a dramatic transformation in the UK’s digital eco-system. Consumers and businesses today enjoy a huge number of internet-enabled services delivered over a variety of networks. Working with industry, government and others we are today launching the Digital Connectivity Forum with an expanded and ambitious agenda to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities of the next 20 years.”

Alex Mather, Head of the Digital Connectivity Forum, said:

“In the 21 years since the Broadband Stakeholder Group was first formed, the UK has gone from dial-up internet to surging gigabit availability, 5G, satellite and other technologies. In 2001, getting broadband Britain up and running was the focus.  Today, the ambition is seamless, universal digital connectivity, across all technologies and industry sectors. The new Digital Connectivity Forum has a crucial role in realising this greater ambition.  We look forward to proactively engaging with government to advise and inform their policy decisions.”

“As the range and diversity of services delivered via the internet has ballooned, the relationship between infrastructure and content has become more central. We want to deliver a new focus on content and distribution while continuing to facilitate discussions on delivery of better infrastructure. New working groups for each will help us to address this challenge.”

Telecoms industry agrees to new cost-of-living plan

The UK’s biggest broadband and mobile operators have agreed to a raft of new commitments to further help customers with the rising cost of living following a government-led summit at No 10 Downing Street.

These include measures such as allowing customers struggling with bills to move to cheaper packages without charge or penalty, or agreeing manageable payment plans, and options to improve existing low cost offers and increasing promotion of existing deals.

The measures, put forward by the government in consultation with the industry, will ensure people struggling with bills due to the economic aftermath of the pandemic and war in Ukraine can continue to make calls, send texts and get online. More information is available here.

New Digital Strategy unveiled

Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp has launched the government’s Digital Strategy aimed at making the UK “a global tech superpower”. Among the document’s commitments are welcome restated goals for gigabit broadband, 4G availability and rural connectivity, although the existing 5G target may need an upgrade. It is interesting to note that the Strategy now defines the 2030 gigabit coverage target as being ‘at least 99%’ – previously this had been described as ‘nationwide’.

Another welcome feature of the Strategy is its focus on investment, although it would have been good to see digital infrastructure alongside start-ups and scale-ups. Digital infrastructure, so vital for the rest of government’s ambitions, needs huge investment ahead of consumer demand.

Alongside the Digital Strategy, the government also published and/or updated a number of other related policy statements. These included the Data Strategy and the Plan for Digital Regulation.