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New Smart Data Scheme to Help UK Broadband and Mobile Users

Tuesday, Sep 19th, 2023 (8:26 am) - Score 1,816

The UK Government (DSIT) has begun to consult on the potential introduction of a new Smart Data scheme – ‘Open Communications‘, which would require broadband ISPs and mobile operators to provide their customers (on request) with more data about their service (price, speeds, reliability, data usage etc.).

At present it’s fair to say that, using the headline examples given above by the government, most providers of such services will already supply details of the price you pay, speeds you receive and your data usage – this is all fairly par for the course. Much of this is reinforced by existing rules, such as Ofcom’s new system for End-of-Contract Notifications (ECN), the future One Touch Switch (OTS) system (due March 2024) and various guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Nevertheless, the government wants to ensure that the sector remains competitive, accessible and that consumers are able to sign-up for the services they need at prices they can afford. But they also recognise that the “rapid pace of technological change in connectivity services, and the bundling of these products, may have made the telecoms market difficult to navigate.” We’d tend to agree, today’s market is both complex and confusing.

As a result of all this, the average consumer is increasingly required to possess technical knowledge to be able to engage in the market successfully, such as an understanding of the differences between FTTC and FTTP or 4G and 5G, among many other things.

Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Tech, said:

“This consultation seeks to understand whether the telecoms market may be easier to navigate and made more accessible for consumers by the introduction of a smart data scheme – Open Communications.

This consultation asks whether a smart data scheme, which would require broadband and mobile operators to provide their customers – on request and with their consent – information about their own connectivity service usage, may support consumers to more easily find deals which best suit their needs and their budgets – which is particularly important as people contend with the rise in the cost of living.

Smart data has significant potential to supercharge competition, invigorate investment and act as an engine for growth in sectors across our economy.”

The expectation is that this information could be used by the customer to more easily understand their connectivity requirements, compare their existing services with others in the market and therefore secure better deals, which suit their needs as well as household budget.

However, the real difference and focus here can be found in the fact that such data could, with the customer’s consent, also be shared with an Authorised Third Party (ATP), such as price comparison websites to offer additional support to consumers. All of this feeds back into the idea of comparison sites presenting personalised services to individual users.

In theory some consumers could benefit from such a system as they may be offered a lower price for a service that might otherwise be more expensive (e.g. if you take a mobile plan with a huge allowance, but have no history of using all that, then you may be ripe for a cheaper deal). But on the flip side, others may end up paying more for the same service and thus grows a risk of “unfair” price discrimination.

Past Ofcom research found that most people “felt personalised pricing was ‘unfair’, with a lack of transparency about how the price would be calculated and uncertainty about whether they had a good deal,” thus solving that challenge will need to be part of any future solution.

However, we’d argue that the main challenge that needs to be overcome with understanding today’s market isn’t in personalised data at all, but rather with making it easier for consumers to figure out precisely which fixed broadband networks are available where they live. In the past we only had to worry about two main infrastructure providers, but today’s market of 100+ alternative networks is headache inducing and many of those providers aren’t good at sharing network availability data.

The government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) is seeking feedback on all this from ordinary consumers as well as network operators, ISPs, technology companies and any businesses with an interest in the telecoms sector. The related consultation is open for responses until 11:45pm on 13th November 2023.

Open Communications: a Smart Data scheme for the UK telecoms market

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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7 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

    If they wanted to make it a fairer and more consumer focused market, they could prohibit in-contract price rises. I know full well what I’m paying, having a load of regulated detail about reliability and data usage helps me not one bit.

    It’s linked in the article (well done ISPR), I’d encourage all readers of this site to follow that link, read the consultation, and provide your views. One of the problems of government is that most consultations have insufficient citizen engagement. A recent DfT consultation on the future of air travel got precisely TWO responses from private individuals. Don’t let this one go the same way.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Annoying it’s send an email or write to them only though. Shame it isn’t just a contact from though I’m assuming they’re hoping it’ll give less abuse to the detail.

      @Mark – are you able to provide the results of polls etc. you’ve ran previously? no point us all doing it if you’re doing a large response on behalf of ISPR but I’ve added it to my list of to get an email sent over.

  2. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    All Three, Vodafone and O2 need to put on their website is the following: We’re shit, job done

  3. Avatar photo SmartGov says:

    Wow, smart meters, smart motorways, smart data scheme.

    1. Avatar photo Angela says:

      Dummer poeple!

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Dumber even.

  4. Avatar photo Alistairs9 says:

    Smart. In the title. Well, that gets the problem out of the way. Proposals usually end up being anything but!

    So I got my old fag packet out of its sealed box and, as anyone who is inclined to, wrote the following. Could it save us paying for speculative, at best, surveys?

    Universal questions to answer (not in order, fag packet, remember):-

    1. What do I need from a supplier of internet?
    Stable connection fast enough to meet needs and doesn’t bankrupt me.

    2. Can I get any internet at all?
    Cables, mobile signal or sats are it.
    Speed? If rural, basically, you’re stuffed.

    3. Is my connection reliable and maintained?
    GOOD question. Top 5 suppliers mostly okay, after that who can say.

    4. Can I afford it?
    UK mostly has done a good job here. Beware bundles, they will end up confusing the fundamental issue and so end up costing something, usually, MORE.

    5. Do I have available sufficient cost effective alternatives ?
    SEE 3. ABOVE.
    Anything else, pure guesswork.

Comments are closed

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