Ofcom to undertake a Strategic Review of Digital Communications

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, is holding a Strategic Review of Digital Communications to promote competition and investment in converged digital communications services.

This is mainly concerned with infrastructure services such as broadband, but will also cover mobile 4G and future 5G services and "over-the-top" services (i.e. services deliver on top of Internet services such as VoIP, messaging systems such as WhatsApp which is replacing SMS, etc).

Ofcom last held a review 10 years ago after BT's infrastructure operation was separated into a distinct entity (BT Openreach, though still part of BT Group).

There have been many changes since the last review such as the merger of T-Mobile and Orange into EE (which has subsequently been purchased by BT) and consolidation in the ISP market (02, Tiscali, AOL, Be, Easynet).

Since 2005

  • broadband adoption has increased from 31% to 78%
  • take-up of bundled services has risen from 29% in 2005 to 63% today
  • significant commercial and public sector investment in superfast broadband has resulted in 78% availability five years after deployment started. Adoption of this new service is now 27%
  • mobile broadband availability has increased significantly, with 3G increasing from 82% to 99% of premises, and 4G services available to 73% of premises. Mobile broadband take-up is now 67%
  • new entrants have shown strong growth in some areas (for example, local loop unbundling now accounts for 44% of broadband connections, up from 17% in 2005)

While Ofcom can not predict the overall output it will likely encompass

  • Efficient investment: How can incentives for efficient private sector investment and innovation be maintained and strengthened, to ensure widespread availability and high quality of service?
  • Competition: What should be the focus of competition policy in future networks (the 'enduring economic bottlenecks')?
  • Deregulation: What is the scope for deregulating networks and services downstream of any 'enduring bottlenecks'?

Ofcom is planning to complete the review by Summer of 2015.

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