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Gov Finalise Strategic Priorities for UK Broadband and Mobile

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 (2:50 pm) - Score 1,272

The UK Government has this week formally adopted a Statement of Strategic Priorities (SSP) for UK mobile and broadband services, which broadly requires Ofcom to improve protection for consumers in the wider telecoms market, promote investment in “gigabit-capable” broadband and support new entrants to the market.

The new SSP, which is a legal mechanism that is underpinned by part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, largely supports all of the Government’s existing objectives. However Ofcom now has a legal duty to pay regard to the Statement when carrying out its work and will need to issue its response within 40 days, which is an interesting time-scale given the imminent General Election.

NOTE: Ofcom must update on the action it has taken in response to the SSP every 12 months.

The core components of all this were set out in last year’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), which forms the basis of the SSP for telecommunications and the management of radio spectrum. Key requirements include extending geographic 4G mobile coverage to 95% of the UK by 2022, a desire to cover the “majority” of the population with 5G mobile by 2027 and to ensure “nationwide deployment of gigabit-capable broadband networks at pace” (currently targeted for the end of 2025).

Broadly speaking we’re not sure what sort of practical difference any of this will actually make to the usual way of doing things. Past and present Governments have long directed the regulator to make changes and Ofcom already issues regular reports on their progress.

Likewise most of the above targets will be delivered by industry (e.g. calling for a “majority” of the UK population to get 5G by 2027 is a fairly easy goal), although the 95% target for geographic mobile coverage to be achieved by 2022 feels like it is now in conflict with the new £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) approach; this expects to hit 95% by the end of 2025.

Nicky Morgan MP, UK Digital Secretary, said:

“Today we’ve asked our world-class regulator Ofcom to help deliver on our shared ambitions to give people the digital and mobile connections they need and deserve.

We need a vibrant and competitive market to get gigabit broadband across the UK and we want Ofcom to encourage industry to get the job done.

We’ve announced £5 billion so everyone benefits from the fastest internet speeds no matter where they are, but we also want better protection for consumers and for them to be able to switch services more easily.”

The Strategic Priorities

● 1: World-class digital infrastructure
The Government’s commitment to world-class digital infrastructure for the UK, reflecting the conclusions of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.

● 2: Furthering the interests of telecoms consumers

The Government’s commitment to safeguarding the interests of telecoms consumers, including the vulnerable and less engaged, by ensuring they are better informed and protected.

● 3: Secure and resilient telecoms infrastructure
The Government’s commitment to ensuring the UK’s telecoms networks and services are secure and resilient.

● 4: Postal services
The Government’s commitment to a universal postal service and need for industry and Ofcom to work together to secure the long-term sustainability of the sector.

Overall there are no particular surprises in the SSP, although it will be interesting to see Ofcom’s first report on progress before the end of this year.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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