Ofcom publishes its proposed plan of work for 2022-2023

Ofcom has published its proposed plan for work for the financial year 2022-23 and has opened a consultation seeking responses on its key priorities.  

Recognising the increasing importance of reliable communications networks for UK society and the economy, including the use of public services, as well as the amount of time citizens spend online, Ofcom says it expects the industries it regulates to experience significant further transformation over the next few years. In the face of this continued change Ofcom says it will maintain its focus on three central outcomes for consumers across the UK. 

Ofcom priorities:  

  • Internet we can rely on. Ofcom will continue to prioritise the creation of competitive markets to support investment in gigabit-capable broadband networks and fast mobile services. Ensuring that consumers are treated fairly and have access to affordable options will remain central to its approach. Reliability does not just mean fast speeds and a good service; it also means resilience against cyber-attacks and the ability to withstand threats from bad actors.  
  • Media we trust and value. Ofcom will continue to support UK-based public service media, including high-quality national, regional and local news and current affairs, to ensure it remains available and prominent to the public across the nations. And at a time when there is a wide variety of voices on different sides of many public debates, Ofcom says its role as the independent regulator of broadcast content is more important than ever: maintaining standards while upholding freedom of expression.  
  • Helping you to live a safer life online. Ofcom’s aim is to bring transparency and accountability to online services, ensuring that they meet their new duties of care to their users. As Ofcom does this, it will build on its track record of upholding media standards, supporting freedom of expression and promoting innovation. 

Alongside these three priorities, Ofcom will continue to support people and businesses across the wide range of sectors it works with, including managing the UK’s spectrum.  

Further to the three priorities listed above, Ofcom will cover seven themes over the next year: Investment in strong, secure networks; Getting everyone connected; Fairness for customers; Enabling wireless services in the broader economy; Supporting and developing UK media; Serving and protecting audiences; Establishing regulation of online safety.  

For techUK members in the telecoms ecosystem, work items to note include: 

  • Ofcom’s Mobile Strategy: a discussion document is expected in early 2022 on how Ofcom can align its regulation of the mobile sector to support the delivery of high-quality mobile connections and support innovation. We await to see how this work intersects with the broader DCMS Wireless Infrastructure Strategy for 2030.  
  • Spectrum demands for mobile services: as above, Ofcom will look to assess demand for mobile spectrum for the period to 2035 and consult on its approach to enabling millimetre-wave spectrum bands to be used for new services, including 5G mobile. 
  • Supporting investment in gigabit networks: the implementation of the regulations set out in the Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review.  
  • Telecoms security framework implementation: Ofcom will become the enforcement agency of the new Telecoms Security Act, and the regulator will prepare for its wider powers to monitor and assess the security of operators’ networks and services.  
  • Net neutrality: following its recent call for evidence on how industry feels the NN framework functioning, Ofcom will publish its next steps Spring 2022 (“We will consider how the net neutrality framework can best serve users’ interests and promote access and choice, while allowing businesses to innovate and invest”) 

Ofcom will continue its work to monitor industry’s progress in moving customers from the PSTN to new voice over IP telephony service, and for utilities, Ofcom is assessing the implications of the changes in communications needed to support the electricity, gas, water sectors. For the space sector, Ofcom will deliver a “Space Strategy”, reviewing how satellite orbits can be used to improve the reach and reliability over a variety of networks and consider how regulation best supports this technology.  

Ofcom welcomes responses to its proposed plan of work by 9 February 2022. You can respond via the Ofcom website

The final plan will be published in March 2022, and Ofcom will also be holding a virtual briefing on 24 January.   


Connected Nations 2021 - Full-fibre broadband now available to more than 8 million homes

Ofcom has also published the 2021 Connected Nations report, on the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK. 

It reveals that the rollout of full-fibre technology is accelerating at its fastest ever rate, with more than 8 million homes (28%) can now get full-fibre broadband – an increase of 3 million properties in the last year. 
 
In 2021, 750,000 homes upgraded to faster, more reliable full-fibre services, taking the number of properties connected to nearly two million. But these homes still represent less than a quarter (24%) of those to which full-fibre upgrades are available.  

With 7.4 million broadband customers out of contract and likely to be paying higher prices for slower speeds, many households could upgrade to a discounted full fibre package without paying more than they currently do. Around 123,000 homes (0.4% of the UK) still do not have access to a ‘decent’ broadband  connection – defined as offering download speeds of 10 Mbit/s and upload speeds of 1 Mbit/s.

5G coverage revealed 

The rollout of 5G mobile continues to make swift progress, and for the first time we have published 5G coverage data. Ofcom estimates that around half of UK properties are in areas where 5G is available outside from at least one mobile network operator. Take-up of 5G-enabled handsets has increased substantially, from just 800,000 last year to more than six million in 2021.  

Although doubling in the last year, 5G traffic still accounts for a relatively small proportion of overall mobile data traffic at 3 per cent, with 4G remaining the dominant technology at 91 per cent. Overall, mobile data consumption increased by 37% in the last year. 

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techUK's Communications Infrastructure Programme brings together government, the regulator, telecom companies and its stakeholders around four themes; shared infrastructure, security and resilience, unlicensed spectrum and our 5G ecosystem. We do so to lower the cost to the sector of deployment, ensure confidence in networks, spur innovation and unlock value for all parties in 5G. This is delivered through a mix of thought leadership, multilateral engagement and ecosystem building.

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Sophie James

Sophie James

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Julia Ofori-Addo

Julia Ofori-Addo

Programme Assistant, BSG, Central Government, Financial Services Team, Comms Infrastructure, techUK