Ofcom issues consultation on Open Communications

August 5, 2020

Across the economy, better technology and the ability to gather more data are allowing companies to innovate and offer new services. Ofcom says that it wants to be at the forefront of these developments to ensure that data and innovation work in the interest of customers in communications markets.

These markets offer lots of choice for customers, but the options can be complex and difficult to navigate. People might find it daunting or too much effort to search for a new deal. Enabling people to share their data at the click of a button could make this process quicker, easier and more effective, helping customers to find more suitable products for their needs.

In 2019, the UK Government’s Smart Data Review proposed to introduce ‘smart data’ initiatives across regulated sectors through legislation.

Ofcom is using the consultation to examine the case for Open Communications – an initiative for the retail telecoms and pay TV markets, which would enable people and small businesses to tell their communications provider to share information about their services, easily and securely, with third parties of their choice.

It explores what an Open Communications initiative could achieve for people and businesses and how it could work.

People and businesses could choose to share data – for example, what products they use, the price they pay and how much data they use – with comparison sites or other providers, to receive recommendations about the best products for their needs. Third parties could also design and build innovative new services that make use of Open Communications data. These services could meet demand that is not currently being addressed.

Open Communications would also require communications providers to share more complete and accurate data on their range of products and how they perform.

Ofcom is consulting on its initial thinking to further understand the potential uses and benefits of Open Communications, how it could best work for people and businesses and the associated costs. It would work to make sure that the requirements of any future regulation to implement Open Communications are proportionate to the benefits.

For people and businesses to trust services that use Open Communications, it is critical that data is shared securely. They must have control over what data they share and how it is used.

The consultation ends on 10 November 2020. Ofcom intends to publish a statement in the first half of 2021, setting out what it has learned and how it plans to proceed. It will be for the UK government to consider whether to introduce legislation to enable the implementation of Open Communications. Responses to the consultation may help to inform any technical advice from Ofcom to the UK government to support the future development of Open Communications.