Telecom PLI

What supportive steps has UK telecom regulator Ofcom implemented at the time of Coronavirus pandemic?

Ofcom, the UK Telecom regulatory body, in wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, has taken these essential steps to ensure that the country’s citizens are not let down in communications facilities.

Over the next few months, Ofcom says its sectors will play a vital role in supporting families, businesses and individuals as the country adapts to the way they live, work and communicate in the wake of the coronavirus.

Highlighting a few steps that Ofcom has laid down at this time:

  1. Telecoms providers are working to ensure resilience across landline, broadband and mobile services as the demands on networks increase, as well as prioritising access to safety-of-life communications systems.
  2. Some telecoms providers have also taken specific steps to support their customers, such as providing unlimited calls or increased data allowances.
  3. Broadcasters have been adapting their schedules to maintain high-quality content to entertain and inform the public, and to ensure accurate and high-quality news. Postal providers are working hard to ensure continued delivery, particularly to vulnerable customers.
  4. As a large proportion of the population works from home and schools have closed, industry has been working closely with Ofcom and Government to ensure that the networks remain resilient and continue to operate effectively.
  5. Telecoms providers are working together to monitor traffic on their networks and are keeping Ofcom informed of the measures they are taking to manage congestion effectively.
  6. Ofcom has welcomed the measures taken by content providers and streaming services to adapt their services where possible so that loads on networks are spread across the day and peaks in traffic are reduced.
  7. The reliability of 999 and 111 calls is a critical priority. Under Ofcom’s existing rules, phone companies must ensure that emergency calls can be connected at all times, even in challenging circumstances. Ofcom is in contact with those responsible for connecting 999 and 111 calls and has received detailed assurances on the capacity and resilience of both services.
  8. With immediate effect, Ofcom is suspending all existing consultation deadlines and information requests and putting on hold new consultations, decisions and information requests.
  9. Ofcom understands that the implementation of new obligations may need to be delayed. Specifically, it is discussing with the Government on the implementation deadlines of the European Electronic Communications Code.
  10. Ofcom is also ensuring that markets operate with integrity, and measures to ensure fairness for customers remain important. Accuracy in broadcasting is essential, and Ofcom wants to expedite any standards enforcement cases involving potentially harmful broadcast content relating to the coronavirus.
  11. Investment in fibre and 5G connections will remain of critical importance for Ofcom.

The statement also reads as “Ofcom will remain in close contact with our sectors over the coming weeks so that we can respond quickly to any new developments.  For example, we have already written to all broadcasting licensees directly with more detailed advice, and we are working with industry and the Government to make sure telecoms customers stay connected, are supported if they are struggling financially and are protected from unexpectedly high bills.”

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