UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom published its annual plan for 2015/16 today, which at first glance offers little deviation from its plan to address issues in the telecommunications market for 2014/2015.
The promotion of effective competition and informed choice for consumers whilst protecting them from harm (nuisance calls, for example) continues as a priority, arguably suggesting that little progress has been made in the past 12 months.
Of particular note for broadband suppliers, internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) are pledges to make sure that consumers have ‘access to redress’ for example, – ie some form of compensation - for service failures and poor quality of service.
Ofcom also wants to make sure that subscribers are provided with ‘clear, relevant’ information by sales and marketing departments to help them choose, and more importantly switch between, providers, effectively a swipe at misleading offers and lack of price transparency in broadband and mobile service tariffs where customers often encounter difficulties with the switching process.
After completing consultations last year, the watchdog will apply new annual license fees for the ongoing usage of the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands used by MNO 2G and 3G services, though it remains to be seen if those fees will be higher or lower than before. It will also work to release new spectrum in the 2.3GHz, 3.4GHz and 700MHz wavebands considered necessary to provide MNOs with sufficient capacity to handle growing data requirements particularly from the Internet of Things – IoT, a vast connected network of intelligent industrial and/or consumer devices and sensors.
Whilst the encouragement of greater spectrum sharing amongst MNOs is an ongoing theme for the regulator, the timing of this year’s plan is perhaps unfortunate given the proposed mergers of BT and EE, Three UK and 02, which will effectively divide UK mobile service provision into three giant networks therefore blunting the issue to a certain extent.
Ominously given forthcoming changes to European Union laws in the telecommunications market, Ofcom will also conduct a strategic review of digital communications and look to harmonise its own rules with those of the EC.