New licensing proposals to support satellite broadband sector

Ofcom has published proposals to change the way it licenses non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) systems, also known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast broadband satellite constellations, such as British-registered OneWeb, which will connect people to the internet in hard-to-reach areas. The process will consist of new checks on potential interference between networks and publishing licence applications so that other interested parties have an opportunity to raise any interference or competition concerns. Under the proposed licence conditions, different networks will be required to co-operate with each other on technical matters to avoid the risk of disruption to their services. (more…)

Ofcom’s review of measures to protect people in debt or at risk of disconnection

According to Ofcom’s research, many people on low incomes are still struggling to pay their bills. Data collected shows that around two million households reported an affordability issue with broadband and/or smartphone services in the month before they were surveyed, or do not have internet at home partly due to cost. The 3.3 million households with the lowest incomes in the UK spend on average over 4% of their disposable income on fixed broadband, nearly four times more than the proportion of an average household. (more…)

Ofcom’s Spectrum Management Strategy for the 2020’s

Ofcom has published a statement on its spectrum strategy, identifying three areas of increased focus:

Supporting wireless innovation: Making it even easier for a broad range of users to access spectrum by making more spectrum available for innovation before its long-term future use is certain; working to support innovation in new wireless technologies; and expanding work to understand, assist and inform the broad range of organisations who may benefit from wireless technologies in the future. (more…)

Government launches SONIC Labs

The government has launched a real-world testing facility, SONIC Labs, to help accelerate the adoption of Open RAN technology and help Britain diversify its supply chain. The lab will bring in multiple providers to supply components for 5G radio equipment. It is being run by Ofcom and Digital Catapult, who have built the facility using existing Digital Catapult infrastructure and capability, £1 million of seed funding from DCMS, and a bespoke SONIC Labs branch as part of Ofcom’s Innovation Lab in Riverside House. It will work with a diverse range of vendors to explore new open approaches to telecoms networks.

This is part of the government’s Diversification Strategy and follows the establishment of the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce aimed at reducing the reliance on high-risk vendors and bringing more players into the market.

Contacting phone, broadband and pay-TV companies: vulnerable customers’ experiences

Ofcom has published a research report on the experiences of some customers in vulnerable circumstances who have been in contact with their communication providers, and compares their experience with the measures in Ofcom’s Treating vulnerable customers fairly guide. To accompany the research, Ofcom published a summary document containing key findings from the research and insights from its recent engagement with customer organisations and charities. (more…)

Ofcom Online Nation Report 2021

Ofcom’s Online Nation 2021 report provides a snapshot of 2020.

Key points:

  • 94% of UK households had internet access in March 2021 with 6% of homes (around one and a half million) without access.
  • UK adults spent more than 3.5 hours online each day in 2020 and spent nearly £2.45 billion on mobile apps across the year.
  • Fixed broadband is by far the most common method for connecting to the internet at home at 92%, mobile data at 49% and mobile broadband at 16%.
  • The smartphone is the most-used device for accessing the internet for all age groups apart from those aged 65+ who access via computer mostly. One in ten adults said they use only a smartphone to go online.
  • Teenagers are spending more money online than offline.
  • 59% of UK children use social media by the time they are 11 and 95% by the age of 15.
  • The UK’s online shopping bill increased by almost 50% to nearly £113 billion.
  • In total, online entertainment and audio-visual media generated £5.6 billion in UK revenue.

The full report can be found here.

Proposed licence fees for 412-414 MHz paired with 422-424 MHz

Ofcom has published the proposed licence fees for the 412–414 MHz and 422–424 MHz paired spectrum which is currently licensed to Arqiva and Airwave. Arqiva won this spectrum in a 2006 auction, with a 15-year initial licence period during which no additional fees would be required. The initial period will come to an end later this year at which point an annual licence fee will become payable. Arqiva traded part of the spectrum with Airwave in 2008 – making Airwave the co-licensee.

Ofcom is proposing that the annual fee be set at £396,000 per MHz, which is in line with what Business Radio users pay for a UK-wide licence in nearby bands.

The deadline for comments is 16 July 2021.

UK Home Broadband Performance

Ofcom has published its interactive UK Home Broadband Performance research which looks into the actual broadband speeds achieved by a sample of households across the UK during November 2020. The research is published as an interactive guide and includes data on download and upload speeds, performance by connection type and comparisons between urban and rural broadband speeds. (more…)

Terms of Reference for Ofcom’s Mobile Strategy Review

As outlined in its Plan of Work 2021/22, Ofcom has published the terms of reference for its upcoming mobile strategy review. The aim of the review is to consider the following key areas:

  • What will good outcomes for people and businesses look like in 5-10 years’ time?
  • What impact are changes across the mobile value chain having on the market?
  • To what extent is the market likely to deliver good outcomes for people and businesses?


New Wireless Telegraphy (Exemption) Regulations 2021

The new regulations will come into force on 12 May 2021 and will implement the decisions below.

Wi-Fi & other Radio Local Area Network (RLAN) technologies

An extra 500 MHz of spectrum from 5925 to 6425 MHz will be allocated for Wi-Fi and RLAN devices and the Dynamic
Frequency Selection (DFS) requirements in the 5.8 GHz band (5725 to 5850 MHz) is being removed. Both these measures will make more channels available, increase capacity and reduce congestion in existing Wi-Fi bands caused by increasing numbers of connected devices. (more…)