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Ofcom Grumbles at BT Over Inaccurate EE Broadband USO Data

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021 (11:41 am) - Score 5,040
ofcom uk telecoms regulator

A probe by the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has found “reasonable grounds for believing” that BT broke the rules by providing “inaccurate information” in response to a statutory information request, which was seeking data about EE’s Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband service for the 2019 Connected Nations report.

The investigation, which was opened in March 2020 (i.e. it took longer than usual due to COVID-19), centred around Ofcom’s final September 2019 request for BT to provide (among other things) data on FWA network coverage in the United Kingdom.

The data was intended to be used in their 2019CN report to help estimate the number of premises which would be potentially eligible to receive a 10Mbps+ broadband service under the Universal Service Obligation (USO). The 2019CN report was published in December 2019, but it appears as if the data may not have been entirely accurate.

As a result of receiving new information provided by BT, on 18th March 2020 Ofcom found itself having to publish an updated report containing “corrected estimates“. The new data did not have any real impact on the implementation of the Broadband USO, which also went live in March 2020, but Ofcom’s rules do still require operators to “provide complete and accurate information upon request.”

Ofcom’s Statement

We have decided there are reasonable grounds for believing BT has contravened its obligations under section 135 of the Communications Act 2003 (the ‘Act’) as a result of providing inaccurate information in response to a statutory information request seeking data about EE’s Fixed Wireless Access broadband service.

We have issued a provisional notification under section 138 of the Act to BT setting out our reasons for this. BT now has an opportunity to make representations to us on our provisional decision, which we will take into account before we issue a final decision.

On the face of it, this sounds like a fairly minor issue and probably isn’t going to attract a particularly big punishment from Ofcom. We should add that the closest service that EE offers to a true FWA product is their 4G based Mobile Broadband package for home users, which can be installed alongside an external antenna. We don’t believe many people adopted that, and it wasn’t well advertised on their website.

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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.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Miles WILLIAMS says:

    Does any company, corporation or organisation actually tell the truth anymore?

    1. Paul johnson says:

      No they don’t anymore, the seed was sown May 1979 when thatcher came to power

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Pretty sure there were plenty of problems before Thatcher on that front :), both in the UK and around the world.

    3. Adam Jarvis says:

      “On the face of it, this sounds like a fairly minor issue”.

      It’s a much bigger issue if this is about the sustained data throughput of EE’s 4G/5G masts.

      One of the issues I keep banging on about is there is no actual Ofcom standard that defines “a 4G/5G mast” in terms of its backhaul/throughput in terms of data, the backhaul from the mast could be a piece of wet string (figuratively speaking) because Ofcom don’t define this in terms of any regulatory standard.

      The 4G/5G signal shown on a device is just the protocol used between the device and mast. It gives no indication of congestion/throughput of multiple devices connected concurrently to a mast, which is extremely important in determining whether an existing EE mast is capable of providing multiple 10Mbps USO’s to say, 50 additional homes, where the data might be sustained, all at the same time, at peak times.

      In other words, it’s actually a pretty big issue if this is what Ofcom was asking for, and EE failed to supply accurate information regarding the mast’s backhaul capability.

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