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…)
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report Improving Broadband. It states that the revised target of at least 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 is challenging and there is a risk that the very hardest to reach premises will be struggling with slow broadband for many years to come. Other concerns include the lack of detail about how the £1.2bn of the £5bn funding will be used to support the roll-out to the hardest-to-reach 20% of the UK’s 31m premises, and the slow progress in delivering the policy and legislative changes sought by industry. The report sets out the PAC’s conclusions and recommendations.
It is worth noting that gigabit-capable broadband networks (FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1) now cover 37.4% of UK premises, which is an increase from 22.1% six months ago. (more…)
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.
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…)
On fixed broadband:
- Full Fibre broadband availability in the UK continues to rapidly improve with over 3.5 million homes (12%) now able to access faster, more reliable full fibre services. This is an increase of over half a million in the four months to January 2020. This is a result of increased rollout from existing broadband networks and new entrants.
- Ultrafast broadband has increased across the UK by over 700,000 properties to over 16 million homes (55%).
- Superfast broadband continues to be rolled out across the UK, with an additional 300,000 properties, meaning over 27 million homes (95%) can now access it.
- Decent broadband can be accessed by the vast majority of UK properties. The number of residential and commercial properties that are not able to receive a decent broadband service from a fixed line stands at 608,000 (2%). These properties may be eligible for the broadband universal service which came into place in March and gives properties unable to get a decent connection the legal right to request one.
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…)
Earlier this year, BT and KCOM were designated as Universal Service Providers (USP) to deliver broadband universal service connections and services. Ofcom set the conditions that will apply to them. From 20 March 2020 consumers will be able to request these services. The USPs are entitled to claim any costs that would not be appropriate for them to cover. Ofcom is proposing rules and procedures for these providers in order to make a claim for any unfair cost burden involved. The procedures would apply to the broadband USO, but also to any other universal service obligations.
As of March 2020 homes and businesses will have the right to request a decent broadband service to their property (decent being defined as a connection offering speeds of at least 10Mbit/s download and 1Mbit/s upload). Ofcom has now announced that it will be BT and KCOM who will be designated as the universal service providers for that broadband connection.
Currently there are 620,000 homes and offices struggling to get a decent broadband service who would currently be in scope of this project.
From March 20th, those eligible will be able to start making requests for a connection to either BT (UK excluding Hull) and KCOM (Hull area). The providers, once eligibility is confirmed (which will include determining whether the property is due to be connected under another publicly-funded scheme within 12 months), must establish a connection as quickly as possible and cover the initial cost up to £3,400. Costs above this threshold must be paid for by the customer.
The recent update to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report – which provides information on coverage and service availability for both internet and mobile phones – reveals that ultrafast broadband speeds (defined as download speeds over 300Mbit/s) are now available to properties in just over half the country. Superfast speeds of at least 30Mbit/s have reached 95% of UK premises and full-fibre broadband has risen a percentage point to 7% coverage, or 300,000 additions in the four months since the last report.
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 set out its thinking for which providers should be delivering the Government’s Universal Service Order to allow for decent broadband connections across the UK. This consultation follows on from a summer request for interested providers to put themselves forward. As a result, Ofcom proposes to designate BT as the Universal Service Provider for the whole of the UK bar Hull which will be served by KCOM.
A WIK conference held last week in Brussels sought to examine the likely impact of the recently agreed EU Electronic Communications Code especially as regards the EU’s goal to be a Gigabit society with greater fibre deployment, in line with the UK’s ambition to see nationwide full fibre roll out by 2033. The Code once fully adopted will have a two year time frame before the new rules will apply across Europe.
Ofcom today called for industry bodies to set out their interest in becoming Universal Service Providers of broadband – as mandated by the legislative order established earlier this year delineating the requirements of the Government’s USO. (more…)
Addressing the CBI Annual Dinner last night, Chancellor Philip Hammond put full fibre infrastructure at the heart of his vision for a post- Brexit Britain leading the world in innovation. Pledging not only to deliver full fibre connections to 15 million premises by 2025, he also committed “to deliver a nationwide full-fibre to the premises network by 2033”.