News | 08 Jan 2020

Ofcom publishes ‘radical’ telecoms market consultation

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has published an important consultation document that could radically change the way the telecoms sector is regulated.

Called the Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review, the complex 600-page document proposes ways to promote investment and competition in fibre networks.

It will fix the shape of regulation in the UK’s broadband and business connectivity markets for a five-year period from April 2021.

Here are some of the key proposals…

  • Where there is established, sufficient competition – in Ofcom’s view – it would withdraw from regulation completely.
  • Where competition has yet to emerge, Ofcom would retain some level of regulation.
  • Openreach, the BT-owned digital network provider, would be banned from offering geographically-targeted discounts, and would have to give 90 days’ notice of any offers (up from 28 days today) to allow Ofcom sufficient time to assess its impact on the market
  • Openreach would not be required to sell copper-wire-based services in areas where it had reached 75% fibre coverage.
  • No regulation of leased lines in Central London (as is the case today), and pricing in well-connected central business districts of major UK cities would be on “fair and reasonable terms”.
  • In areas where BT faces no competition, telecoms companies will have access to the unused parts of their fibre network – so-called dark fibre – “at cost”.
  • Ofcom is also proposing a complex arrangement to allow BT to fund future fibre investment in places where it faces no competition. The cost of that investment would effectively be underwritten by potentially higher wholesale pricing in these areas, meaning rural consumers could end up paying more than urban dwellers for full-fibre broadband.

Ofcom has given stakeholders until 1 April to submit comments, and over the coming weeks Vodafone UK will be preparing its response.

The News Centre will provide updates as and when we have them.