DCMS launches consultation launched on Strategic Priorities for telecommunications and radio spectrum management

February 22, 2019

The DCMS has launched a consultation on its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum and post. Once the SSP is formalised and designated, Ofcom must have regard to it when exercising its regulatory functions. The power for the UK government to designate an SSP was introduced in the Digital Economy Act 2017. This is the first time the government is exercising this power. 

The key areas of the Statement are:

  • world-class digital infrastructure – this reflects the outcome of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review. The FTIR, published in July 2018, set out a national, long-term strategy for digital infrastructure in the UK, with the aim of securing world-class connectivity that is gigabit-capable, reliable, secure and widely available;
  • furthering the interests of telecoms consumers, eg addressing harmful business practices, particularly those that affect the most vulnerable consumers; dealing with the ‘loyalty penalty’, exploring greater data portability and removing barriers to switching;
  • secure and resilient telecoms infrastructure;
  • postal services.

To achieve the UK government’s targets of gigabit capable connections to 15 million premises by 2025, and nationwide coverage by 2033, the FTIR set out a number of strategic priorities, including: reducing the costs and barriers to the deployment of fibre networks; easy access to Openreach’s ducts and poles; the need for stable and long term regulation that provides incentives for investment and ensures competition; an “outside in” approach to full fibre deployment so that the most commercially difficult to reach premises are not left behind; and the need for a timely switchover to full fibre networks.

The FTIR also set out the Government’s strategic priorities to extend geographic mobile coverage to 95% of the UK by 2022, and for the majority of the country to have 5G coverage by 2027. The SSP reiterates the importance of Ofcom’s forthcoming 700MHz and 3.6 – 3.8 GHz spectrum auction and identifies roaming as a potential mechanism to improve mobile coverage. The SSP also reiterates the importance of ensuring that market conditions are conducive to 5G investment, and considering flexible spectrum models to support innovation and coverage.

The consultation ends on 27 March 2019.