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Ofcom Launches Next Generation Broadband (NGA) Action Plan

Posted: 23rd Sep, 2008 By: MarkJ
Ofcom has today launched a new action plan (consultation) designed to encourage further investment and competition in the development of super-fast (up to 100Mbps) broadband services to UK homes and businesses. Its plan seeks to remove investment barriers without seriously impeding market competition and consumer choice, a nice idea in principal but difficult to get right.

The plan kicks off with an interesting bit of video interview spin from Ofcom's Head of Telecoms Technology, Chinyelu Onwurah; though it doesn't really say anything that hasn't been said before:


There's certainly a lot of new documentation, although as usual it's mostly all generalised talk at this stage and doesn't offer a great deal of truly new information:

The proposals seek to build on the innovation and competition delivered in current generation broadband. To achieve this, Ofcom aims to provide certainty on the future regulatory environment for super-fast broadband by setting out new proposals for consultation in five main areas:

  • developing clear standards for wholesale products, thereby allowing communications providers to compete and innovate in the super-fast broadband market;

  • allowing pricing freedom where there is effective competition, giving companies the flexibility to price services that reflect investment risk and generate a return on investment;

  • understanding the scope for competition based on access to existing telecoms infrastructure, building on the success of local loop unbundling;

  • facilitating transition by ensuring the smooth and timely move from traditional copper to fibre networks for both industry and consumers as services take off; and

  • communicating the next steps for Ofcom: how we will work with other interested parties including industry, the UK Government and the European Commission.
The consultation also outlines Ofcom’s proposals on the potential role for the public sector in delivering new investment, such as targeting those locations where the market is least likely to deliver new networks.

Interestingly the one area of real movement appears to be in the regulators attitude towards new build homes, where the installation of fibre optic infrastructure could potentially hinder a consumer’s choice of broadband suppliers.

Ofcom has moved to clarify its regulatory stance on this point and push its "expectations" that operators will give consumers the necessary choices, yet stops short of imposing formal regulation for understandable fear of hindering investment.

It's a prime example of how difficult the balancing act between encouraging investment and fostering competition will be. Somebody has to front the money for these expensive new networks and they naturally require a return on that investment. We're unlikely to see a perfect balance for some years to come.

Ofcom's action plan related documentation:
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/nga_future_broadband/

Ofcom's New Build homes summary:
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/newbuild/statement/
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