light bulb offMaking digital communications work for everyone

Ofcom has now published initial conclusions of its review of digital communications, which is designed to make the UK a world-leading digital economy over the next decade and beyond.

It sets out how we’ll improve the quality and coverage of broadband, landline and mobile, ensuring consumers and businesses receive the best possible services in years to come.

The UK has made good progress rolling out superfast broadband and 4G mobile. But we need to do better. I’m concerned about people up and down the country who can’t get decent mobile or broadband, and those who are suffering from poor service quality. I know that many people in rural areas, small businesses and even those in cities are being left behind.

The challenge is for the UK to keep up with everyone’s expectations of their broadband and phones, to ensure they get the reliability, quality and speeds they need. Today’s proposals are designed to achieve this, and include:

A choice of networks for consumers and businesses

Openreach is the part of BT that runs the phone and broadband network on which most homes and offices rely. Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices. This will help create more choice, while reducing the country’s reliance on Openreach.

Reform of Openreach

Openreach needs to change, taking its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy, in consultation with the wider industry. This would mean Openreach taking independent decisions on where to roll out broadband, how much money to spend on improving service quality and new high-speed broadband technology.

Better quality of service across the telecoms industry

Ofcom intends to introduce tougher rules on faults, repairs and installations; transparent information on service quality; and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong.

Improved broadband and mobile coverage

Ofcom will work with the Government to deliver a new universal right to fast, affordable broadband for every household and business in the UK. Also, when we release airwaves for mobile phone companies, we intend to place new obligations in these future spectrum licences to improve rural mobile coverage.

These are big changes. I believe they will make a real difference to people and fundamentally improve the communications services that underpin how we live and work in the 21st century. You can find out more now, and we will bring forward detailed proposals for these improvements later this year.

Sharon White, Chief Executive, Ofcom 25 February 2016.