Displaying items by tag: Ofcom

UK telcos face fines for using Huawei after 5G ban

Written on Tuesday, 24 November 2020 05:36

Britain’s telecom companies could be fined up to 10% of turnover or $133,140 a day if they violate a ban on using equipment made by China’s Huawei under a fresh law put forward this week.

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill will tighten the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks, the government said.

Britain in July decided to ban the use of Huawei in 5G networks from the end of 2027 because of growing security concerns and future co-operation with the US.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said the benefits of 5G and fiber networks could only be realized if they were secure and resilient.

“This groundbreaking bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks,” he said.

Huawei said it was disappointed that the government was looking to exclude it from the roll-out of 5G.

“This decision is politically motivated and not based on a fair evaluation of the risks,” said Vice President Victor Zhang.

“It does not serve anyone’s best interests as it would move Britain into the digital slow lane and put at risk the Government’s levelling up agenda.”

The government said the tougher security standards in the bill would also help protect Britain from potential cyber-attacks from countries and criminals.

Regulator Ofcom will be given the duty of monitoring and assessing the security of telecoms providers.

Published in Telecom Operators

Ofcom moves to ban sale of carrier-locked phones in the UK

Written on Wednesday, 28 October 2020 05:45

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has banned phone carriers from selling locked phones starting December 2021 in an effort to give people greater autonomy when it comes to switching between providers.

While operators such as Sky, Virgin, Three and O2 already sell unlocked phones, some of the UK’s other operators like Vodafone, Tesco and EE, still sell phones that need to be unlocked manually before users can switch to a different carrier.

According to Ofcom, the banning of this practice comes as a set of new measures are about to be launched. The telecoms watchdog found that more than a third of people in the UK who were against switching operators said that one of the contributing factors to their decision was that they were put off by having to go through the process of unlocking their phone. In the UK, unlocking a phone costs £10 and it can often lead to delays, loss of service or other issues.

Ofcom’s connectivity director, Selina Chadha, said, “We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals.”

In reference to this, Vodafone said that it was “ready to implement these changes when they come into force”. BT also said that it was willing to “work with Ofcom to comply with the guidelines”.

In an official statement by Ofcom, the regulator disclosed that it plans to also simplify the switching process for broadband customers.

“We’re also making it easier to switch between broadband networks. At the moment, customers switching between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s copper network can simply contact their new provider, who will manage the switch from there,” the statement read.

While the UK has moved to ban the sale of carrier-locked mobile phones, the US is on the other end of the spectrum; it is still quite a common practice in the US.

Published in Reports

UK operator expresses scepticism over Ofcom’s rural plan

Written on Thursday, 18 April 2019 06:41

3 UK has expressed their scepticism over Ofcom’s plans to address poor rural coverage in the United Kingdom, highlighting that the costs of the proposal were too excessive and overall the initiative lacked ambition.

3 UK’s Chief Operating Officer, Graham Baxter has called for the regulator to ditch their plans and work collectively with all UK operators in an effort to find a lasting solution to the ongoing problems experienced by users in rural parts of the UK.

Baxter blasted their plans to remove partial hot-spots in the UK’s countryside, areas which are not covered by any of the country’s four major operators.

As a way to incentivise investment, Ofcom in 2018 said it planned to offer mobile operators a discount in a spectrum auction planned for 2020, if they make binding coverage commitments.

Ofcom said two operators could receive discounts of up to £400 million on the cost of spectrum licences by committing to meet three targets within four years; providing good outdoor data coverage to at least 90 per cent of the UK’s land mass; improve mobile coverage for 140,000 buildings; and install 500 new masts in rural areas.

However, Baxter has criticized the plan for lacking ambition, while also hitting out at the expense incurred by the operator to execute the program.

Instead, he said the regulator should push an initiative for a single rural network, which would see the country’s operators jointly invest in a shared infrastructure.

In addition, he urged authorities to relax planning permission rules for taller mobile masts in rural areas of the country.

In addition to this, Baxter also argued that Ofcom’s plan would only benefit two mobile operators, but conceded that a single network would be beneficial for all four of the country’s operators with regards to coverage.

Published in Telecom Operators

UK telecommunications incumbent EE has threatened Ofcom with legal action if it doesn’t reverse its decision to set a spectrum cap on forthcoming 4G and 5G auctions. EE has been backed by rivals O2 UK as the fallout from the decision shows no signs of abating.

The UK regulator announced in July that it intended to impose a cap of 340MHz on all operators for spectrum expected to be usable by 2020, which was proposed in an effort to reduce the share held by EE, which is the country’s largest asset holder, and its parent company BT.

At the time of Ofcom’s announcement, both 02 UK and 3 UK expressed that the measures proposed fell short in their expectations, whilst EE believed the strategy was ‘unnecessary’. In addition to this, it was disclosed earlier this month that 3 were preparing to initiate a legal challenge, stressing that the regulator had failed to address competition concerns raised by the operator.

3 UK has been a long-term critic of the division of spectrum in the UK, and has vehemently opposed the current policy approach in relation to spectrum allocation. It has previously threatened legal action if Ofcom refused to address the market dominance currently enjoyed by both BT and Vodafone with its auction rules.

Analysts have now predicted that with legal challenges now likely, the 4G and 5G auctions for spectrum which were due to take place at the end of 2017, it will now be delayed until the issues raised have been resolved either through dialogue between Ofcom and the operator or through the courts. EE accepted the regulators decision on 4G, but stressed it wanted to be able to participate in the auction for the most of up-to-date 5G spectrum.

A spokesman for EE said it was reluctant to take legal action, but feels it has no other option to do so, citing that it had an obligation to protect its customers’ mobile experience. The EE representative said, “In response to 3’s action, we have made the difficult decision to challenge the proposed structure of the next auction of mobile spectrum. We need to protect our customers’ mobile experience, and help build the platform for the UK to have the highest quality 5G networks.”

Reports in The Financial Times suggest that Ofcom have declared that any legal action will put the future of mobile data at risk – and issued a warning that it could potentially have a knock-on effect on the rollout of 5G services.

O2 CEO Mark Evans declared that legal action would inevitably delay the auction, and criticized the approach that has been taken.  The CEO said, “Legal action will inevitably cause delay to the auction and gives no thought to the impact and harm this will have to UK customers, companies and economic growth. This country desperately needs more mobile airwaves. It is possible to hold the 2.3GHz auction now and grant immediate access to the newly-available spectrum. Ofcom can and must act,” he added.

Published in Telecom Operators

The UK’s telecom regulator Ofcom announced that later this year it will auction licenses to use 190 MHz of spectrum in two frequency bands, to increase the airwaves available for mobile devices by almost one third. Ofcom said it is helping meet strong demand by releasing extra spectrum, allowing mobile operators to increase their networks’ capacity.

However, UK operator Three publicly disapproved of Ofcom’s announcement in a statement, saying Ofcom’s proposal is “a kick in the teeth for all consumers and in particular for the near-200,000 people who signed up to the ‘Make the Air Fair’ campaign.”

Three launched the campaign in late 2016 calling on consumers to help it fight for a 30 percent spectrum cap before the spectrum auction. The campaign aimed to tackle rival operator BT/EE’s alleged “spectrum dominance”. BT/EE own more than 40 percent of the UK’s available spectrum, and Three has expressed concern that the upcoming auction will enable the two operators to gain more spectrum, thus increasing their dominance.

“By making decisions that increase the dominance of the largest operators, Ofcom is damaging competition, restricting choice and pushing prices up for the very consumers that it is meant to protect,” said Three’s statement. “The mobile market is imbalanced and failing customers. Ofcom has shown little interest in tackling the problem. We will consider our response as a matter of urgency.”

40 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 2.3GHz band by Ofcom. This band is already supported by mobile devices from manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung. These airwaves could be used immediately after release to provide extra capacity, meaning faster downloads and internet browsing for mobile users, according to Ofcom.

In addition, 150 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 3.4GHz band. These airwaves are not compatible with most current mobile devices, but are expected to be usable by future phones and tablets. The 3.4GHz band has been identified as central to the rollout of 5G mobile across Europe.

Ofcom has expressed its intention to reduce BT/EE’s overall share of mobile spectrum by imposing two different restrictions on bidders: “These will limit the amount of spectrum operators can win in the 2.3GHz band; and place overall limits on the spectrum an operator can win across the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands in aggregate,” said the regulator in a statement.

Ofcom said it will place a cap of 255 MHz on the “immediately useable” spectrum that any one operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap means BT/EE will not be able to bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band. In addition, Ofcom will place a new, additional cap of 340 MHz on the overallamount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap amounts to 37 percent of all mobile spectrum expected to be useable in 2020, which includes not only the spectrum available in this auction but also the 700MHz band.

“Taken together, the effect of the caps will be to reduce BT/EE’s overall share of mobile spectrum; the company can win a maximum 85 MHz of new spectrum in the 3.4GHz band,” said Ofcom. “The overall cap also means that Vodafone could gain a maximum 160 MHz of spectrum across both the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.”

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “Spectrum is a vital resource that fuels the UK’s economy. We’ve designed this auction to ensure that people and businesses continue to benefit from strong competition for mobile services.”

Marnick added: “We want to see this spectrum in use as soon as possible. With smartphones and tablets using even more data, people need a choice of fast and reliable mobile networks. These new airwaves will support better services for mobile users, and allow operators to innovate and build for the future.”

Published in Telecom Operators

UK regulator Ofcom on June 16 fined mobile phone provider Three £1,890,000, after uncovering a weakness in the mobile operator’s emergency call network. An Ofcom investigation found that Three broke an important rule designed to ensure everyone can contact the emergency services at all times.

Three fired back at Ofcom saying it acknowledged Ofcom’s decision to fine the company for a single point of vulnerability on Three’s network, but claims the vulnerability “has not had any impact on our customers and only relates to a potential point of failure in Three’s network,” the operator said.

On 6 October 2016, Three notified Ofcom of a temporary loss of service affecting customers in Kent, Hampshire and parts of London. Ofcom’s investigation found that emergency calls from customers in the affected area had to pass through a particular data centre in order to reach the emergency services. This meant that Three’s emergency call service was vulnerable to a single point of failure.

Three’s network “should have been able to automatically divert emergency calls via back-up routes in the event of a local outage,” Ofcom said. But these back-up routes would also have failed because they were all directed through this one point. To resolve the incident and address the underlying network weakness, Three added an additional back-up route to carry emergency call traffic.

Following Ofcom’s investigation, the regulator found Three had “breached the requirement to ensure uninterrupted access to the emergency services.” The breach of the rules was not the incident itself, but rather the weakness identified in Three’s network.

Ofcom’s investigation acknowledged that Three did not act deliberately or recklessly. However, the fine “reflects the seriousness of the breach, given the potential impact on public health and safety,” it said. Ofcom also acknowledged the steps Three took to ensure ongoing compliance with its emergency call service rules.

“Ofcom identified this vulnerability when investigating a separate, unprecedented and unforeseeable October 2016 fibre break outage on Three’s network,” said Three in a statement. “This resulted in a temporary loss of emergency call services affecting some customers. Three took immediate action and the issue was quickly resolved.”

Three highlighted that Ofcom recognized that the circumstances surrounding the October 2016 fibre break outage were exceptional and outside of Three’s control.  Therefore, Three claims the incident itself was “not a breach of Ofcom’s rules.”

As a result of the investigation, Ofcom said it expects all providers to “satisfy themselves that their networks do not have any single points of failure in the routing of their emergency call traffic, which could reasonably be avoided.”

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Enforcement and Investigations Director, said: “Telephone access to the emergency services is extremely important, because failures can have serious consequences for people’s safety and wellbeing.” Rasmussen added that the fine “serves as a clear warning to the wider telecoms industry. Providers must take all necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services.”

Published in Telecom Operators

 Broadband users in London experience slower speeds than the nationwide average, according to new figures from the consumer group Which?. In some areas of London, users barely achieve speeds above 10 megabits per second which is considered the acceptable standard by British telecom regulator Ofcom.

Other areas below the national average include boroughs such as Southwark, Westminster and Lambeth. Campaigners claim the findings will put pressure on the industry to increase broadband speeds across the country. The findings were sourced from average speeds reported by internet users in each local authority, which shows the real service customers are dealing with and not just maximum available speeds.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Which?’s data does not reflect the speeds that households could achieve in the UK. The consumer group’s figures showed Southwark in South East London recording average speeds of 10.4 megabits and Westminster recorded 12.9, both below the nationwide average of 17 megabits, The Telegraph reported.

Rural broadband coverage is said to have been prioritized in recent years by Ministers who are introducing a “universal service obligation” that will come into effect in 2020. The obligation will force internet providers to offer speeds of 10 megabits, which is roughly enough to download a film in just under 15 minutes.

Other cities in the UK such as Hull and Canterbury fell well below the national average, according to Which?’s figures, and less than half the average in the fastest areas, which include Tamworth in the West Midlands and Adur on the south coast boasting more than 30 megabits.

Which?’s Alex Neill said: “Far too many households across the UK are suffering from slow broadband speeds, which can stop them being able to carry out essential daily tasks.” Neill predicts the figures will “put pressure on the government and providers to help everyone get a good broadband connection.”

“Superfast Broadband is now available to 93 percent of the UK, and we are reaching thousands more homes and businesses every week,” said a spokesperson for the DCMS, defending against Which?’s findings. “These figures don’t show what broadband is available – they show many people haven’t taken up speeds that are already available to them.”

The government has admitted, according to The Telegraph, that urban constituencies can be underserved by high-speed broadband. This is because state aid rules prevent investment being put into areas where BT and others have announced network upgrades, and some inner city areas have few residential households because of the high number of businesses, making internet providers less concerned about providing residential access.

Busy towns can also make installing improved equipment more difficult due to issues of accessibility and the high cost of street-works.

Published in Infrastructure

British telecoms giant BT has been fined 42 million pounds ($53 million) by the regulator Ofcom for failing to deliver on contracts with telecoms providers and also failing to pay the required level of compensation for delays in Ethernet installations. The error is estimated to cost the company around 300 million pounds in compensation, according to reports.

BT was supposed to pay compensation for delays outside its contracted Ethernet installation time of 30 working days, according to Ofcom’s regulations. There are circumstances where there could be logistical or technical issues with the installation, so the company could assume the customer agreed to an extension. But during its investigation, Ofcom found that BT had been abusing its extension clause to reduce compensation payouts.

BT was accused by Vodafone in 2015 of failing to meet its contractual compensation terms and late delivery of Ethernet services, and Ofcom launched an investigation into operations at BT’s Openreach operation.

“These high-speed lines are a vital part of this country’s digital backbone,” said Ofcom investigations director Gaucho Rasmussen. “Millions of people rely on BT’s network for the phone and broadband services they use every day. We found BT broke our rules to pay other telecoms companies proper compensation when these services were not provided on time. The size of our fine reflects how important these rules are to protect competition and, ultimately, consumers and businesses.”

BT has subsequently accepted the accusations and secured a 30 percent reduction in the amount for admitting full liability. BT has reportedly agreed to compensate all of the operators involved within 12 months.

Published in Finance

British telecoms giant BT says it will legally separate its broadband unit Openreach to cease concerns over competition in the sector. Created by BT in 2005, Openreach maintains tens of millions of copper and fiber lines connecting telephone exchanges to homes and businesses across the UK. Controversy arose when BT's rivals, including Sky and Vodafone, said the existing set up gave BT a competitive advantage. UK watchdog Ofcom agreed, forcing BT to make changes.

BT announced that 32,000 employees will transfer to the new Openreach Limited which will be "one of the largest such transfers in UK corporate history". The company said in a statement, "BT and Ofcom have reached an agreement on a long-term regulatory settlement that will see Openreach become a distinct, legally separate company with its own board, within the BT Group".

BT added that the agreement is "based upon voluntary commitments submitted by BT that the regulator has said meet its competition concerns." Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said the move marked "a significant day for phone and broadband users" in the UK.

In a statement Ms. White said, "The new Openreach will be built to serve all its customers equally, working truly independently and taking investment decisions on behalf of the whole industry - not just BT."

The announcement received praise from BT's investors, with BT shares up 4.5 percent at 344.90 pence in early trading, topping London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which was up almost half a percent overall.

"BT's rivals such as Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone, which use Openreach's network to offer broadband to consumers, have long complained of high charges, poor service and failure to invest in the division," noted Ian Forrest, investment research analyst at The Share Centre.

Published in Telecom Operators

Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, revealed that it had fined UK telecoms giant Vodafone £4.6 million ($5.6 million) for breaching rules designed to protect customers. Ofcom said it uncovered evidence of Vodafone’s “mis-selling, inaccurate billing and poor complaints handling processes”.

According to a statement by Ofcom, it had conducted two investigations into Vodafone which had failed to credit the accounts of 10,452 pay-as-you-go mobile customers in Britain, while also mishandling their complaints. This series of mishandlings took place over a 17 month period up to April 2015. During that time, the affected customers lost a combined £150,000.

"Vodafone's failings were serious and unacceptable, and these fines send a clear warning to all telecoms companies," said Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell.

Vodafone, based in London, expressed its “profound apologies” for the mishandlings. "We deeply regret these system and process failures,” the company said. “We are completely focused on serving our customers: everyone who works for us is expected to do their utmost to meet our customers' needs, day after day, and act quickly and efficiently if something goes wrong.”

"It is clear from Ofcom's findings that we did not do that often enough or well enough on a number of occasions. We offer our profound apologies to anyone affected by these errors." Britain's Vodafone is second only to China Mobile in terms of subscriber numbers around the world.

Published in Telecom Operators