With an eye toward potential deregulation, British telecom watchdog Ofcom confirmed plans late last week to launch an “overarching review” of the UK broadband, mobile and landline markets that constitutes the most thorough evaluation of the national telecommunications sector in ten years.
In addition to assessing the market impact of BT, the nation’s top provider of broadband and other wireline services, Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications will examine “competition, investment, innovation, and the availability of products” in specified communications markets. During the first phase of the review, which is slated for completion this summer, Ofcom said it would look at “current and future market factors that may affect digital communications services and current regulatory approaches” by engaging “with a wide variety of stakeholders—including industry, consumer groups, the UK government and devolved administrations—through meetings and workshops.” The second phase will wrap up with the issuance of initial conclusions by the end of this year.
Goals of the strategic review include (1) ensuring the “right incentives for private sector investment,” (2) maintaining “strong competition and tackling obstacles or bottlenecks, and (3) determining “whether there is a scope for deregulation in some areas.” As it announced the review, Ofcom also pointed out key improvements in the national telecom sector over the past decade that include the expansion of BT’s fiber broadband network to more than 75% of the UK population, the widespread deployment of fourth-generation mobile services, a 50% drop in broadband subscription prices, and a 20-fold boost in average broadband speeds. Welcoming the review, a spokesman for BT remarked, “competition is now so intense [that] there is a case for further deregulation and a discussion of how investment can be encouraged in such a competitive market.”