Posted on 12/03/2015
After years of regulatory tinkering and work-arounds, FCS is delighted to see Ofcom are now committed to a fundamental review of the UK’s digital communications market.
FCS members supply the crucial professional-grade communications solutions that enable modern businesses and public sector organizations to trade and communicate in the global market. And they are constantly frustrated that a modern, digital voice and data market place is still constrained by BT’s old-fashioned copper infrastructure, designed for analogue voice communications.
So Ofcom’s announcement of a Strategic Review of Digital Communications is not just about the internal issues of the comms market. It’s about nothing less than the ability of British businesses to trade and grow in the markets of tomorrow.
“FCS members supply voice and data communications across all technology platforms – copper, fibre, mobile and radio,” says FCS Chief Executive Chris Pateman. “Our members believe markets need to become increasingly open, transparent and competitive into the future, as technologies evolve and converge, and as businesses and consumers seek new ways of improving their use of time. We will be marshalling all their industry-wide experience to help inform Ofcom’s position.”
FCS is pushing for two major themes to be at the core of the Ofcom review.
Firstly, the full structural separation of the communications utility layer (copper, fibre, ducts, poles, exchanges and mast sites) from the wholesale and retail products which run over it. This is in line with the models used in other regulated industries, where, for example, Railtrack owns and manages the railway tracks, signaling and gantries, and the train operators effectively lease capacity on Railtrack’s network. It is invidious in a competitive and maturing market that BT or EE or Vodafone should be able to compete with other brands to deliver consumer-facing products while at the same time owning the infrastructure over which these services are delivered.
And secondly, an early and intimate involvement with the Competition and Markets Authority. The kind of changes which will be needed to create an open, world-class and competitive comms market in the future will inevitably throw up all kinds of competition issues. It’s important from the earliest stages that Ofcom has access both to the high-quality intelligence CMA can bring to the process, and also to an understanding of the legal powers CMA has at its disposal to ensure competitive markets become a reality.
“Business commmunications providers are very encouraged to see this first root-and-branch review of our vital industry”, says Chris Pateman. “British businesses and British consumers deserve a truly world-class communications market. We look forward to working with Ofcom to help make it happen.”
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