Telecoms | UK Regulatory Outlook October 2022
Published on 26th Oct 2022
UK government requires removal of Huawei technology on public 5G networks | Ofcom to update broadband speeds codes of practice | UK government agrees cap on data charges with Norway and Iceland
UK government requires removal of Huawei technology on public 5G networks
On 13 October, the UK government issued formal legal notices to broadband and mobile operators requiring them to remove Huawei technology from public 5G networks by the end of 2027. While the 2027 deadline remains unchanged from the government's previous position, there have been some changes to the interim deadlines:
- The requirement to cease use of Huawei equipment in core networks has been extended from January 28, 2023 to December 31, 2023; and
- The requirement to limit any Huawei presence to 35% of the full fibre access network has been extended from January 28, 2023 to October 31, 2023.
The full text of the direction issued by the UK government can be found here.
Ofcom to update broadband speeds codes of practice
Ofcom has voluntary codes of practice on broadband speeds for residential and business customers, giving them the right to exit their broadband contract and bundled services, without penalty, if their download speed falls below the minimum guaranteed speed they were offered by their provider.
Following a consultation earlier this year on possible changes to the codes, Ofcom has now published its decision as follows:
- the definition of a bundle in the Residential Broadband Speeds Code of Practice, is to be updated so the customer’s right to exit will apply to their broadband and bundled services in the same way as their right to exit will apply to their contract and bundled services as set out in the revised General Conditions;
- for small businesses (those with ten or fewer employees) the definition of bundle in the Business Broadband Speeds Code of Practice is also to be updated to align with the General Conditions; and
- for larger businesses, the current business code’s definition of a bundle will be retained.
Any necessary changes to comply with the amendments to the codes should be implemented by existing signatories by 21 December 2022.
UK government agrees cap on data charges with Norway and Iceland
The UK government has announced that an agreement has been reached with Norway and Iceland to cap charges for using data and making calls and texts. The agreement allows UK mobile operators to offer their customers surcharge-free mobile roaming in Norway and Iceland by creating a mechanism to cap the rates operators charge each other. The agreement also contains an option to extend to Liechtenstein at a future date.
The government expects to implement secondary legislation early next year.
CAP and BCAP consult on mid-contract price increase guidance
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the British Code of Advertising Practice (BCAP) are consulting on a set of guidance principles that they consider will help telcos make ads which are less likely to mislead consumers about mid-contract price increases.
CAP and BCAP set out in their proposal that the existence (or known possibility) of a mid-contract price increase and the nature of that price increase (if known) constitute material information that a consumer requires before making their transactional decision. Therefore ads that omit this information or present it in an unclear manner are likely to mislead consumers.
Ads will still be addressed by the Advertising Standards Association on a case-by-case basis, but CAP and BCAP have set out a model which they consider is most likely to comply with the advertising codes and are therefore less likely to mislead consumers. Among other considerations, an ad will be more likely to comply when: (i) information indicating the presence or possibility of a price rise is either part of the price claim, or placed immediately next to it; and (ii) Information about the nature of the price rise (if known) is featured prominently within the main copy of the ad, for example, no lower than one "step" from the initial price claim, and linked by an asterisk to the main price claim in static-format ads.
The consultation is currently open for responses from interested parties (including members of the public) until 5pm on Thursday 17 November. Read more in our article.
Ofcom urges telecoms firms to provide better support to struggling customers
On 29 September Ofcom published its report on affordability which found that nearly a third (29%) of customers – around 8 million households – are having problems paying for their phone, broadband, pay-TV and streaming bills. The number of struggling families has doubled over the last year (from 15% in April 2021) and now stands at its highest level since its records began.
As a result of these findings, Ofcom is now asking that telecoms firms consider whether large price rises can be justified at a time of exceptional financial hardship and has demanded collective industry action to better promote social tariffs.
Ofcom has also published guidance for providers that gives some suggestions on measures they could adopt to make sure they treat vulnerable people fairly and give them the help, support and services they need.
Ofcom market study into cloud services
Please see Competition.
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