On 14 September 2017 Ofcom, the UK communications industry regulator, adopted new statutory guidelines (“Penalty Guidelines“) on how it would assess and determine the penalties (fines) payable by regulated communications companies who breach their obligations under the Communications Act 2003 (“Act”). The revised guidelines follow Ofcom’s June 2017 adoption of new guidelines for enforcement in regulatory investigations (“Enforcement Guidelines“) and procedures for investigating breaches of competition related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences (“Broadcasting Investigation Procedures“).

Although on their face the changes to the guidelines seem relatively minor, when considered against the background of (i) Ofcom’s increasingly pro-active enforcement policy; and (ii) the increased difficulty of challenging Ofcom’s decisions, following the 20 July 2017 change in the standard of review of decisions on appeal from an ‘on the merits‘ review to ‘judicial review principles‘, we expect the changes to make it easier for Ofcom to take action against regulated communications companies and more difficult for those companies to defend and appeal Ofcom’s decisions. As a net result, regulated communications companies need to take Ofcom enforcement action more seriously. Those companies are now financially incentivised to engage early with Ofcom and consider early settlement to secure a settlement discount, especially as they will find it more difficult to challenge Ofcom’s decisions on appeal. Continue Reading What is the impact of the new Ofcom penalty guidelines?

Ofcom published its annual Communications Market Report this week. This report provides a reference for industry, stakeholders and consumers across the sectors Ofcom regulates.  A handy bite-size version of the report is available here.

What has the 2017 report revealed? Continue Reading A nation of binge-watchers: Ofcom reveals the UK’s TV and online habits in its annual report

On 11 July 2017, Ofcom announced that it would be auctioning (i) 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band; and (ii) 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band in the UK in late 2017. Ofcom has decided to impose spectrum caps to, in Ofcom’s words, ‘safeguard competition‘. It remains to be seen whether any of the market participants challenge Ofcom’s decision on spectrum caps. Ofcom also published an Information Memorandum for prospective bidders and issued a consultation on the auction regulations. The consultation closes on 14 August 2017. Whilst the 2.3 GHz spectrum can be used for current LTE (4G) services, the 3.4 Ghz spectrum is expected to support faster next generation mobile (5G) services. Continue Reading UK to auction 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum in 2017

On 10 May 2017, the European Commission published its mid-term review of the implementation of Europe’s Digital Single Market strategy. Launched in 2015, the ambitious strategy covered 16 actions under the three pillars: (1) improving access to digital goods and services for consumers and businesses across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; and (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. Despite a lot of activity, the Commission was only able to highlight one actual delivered improvement in its review – the abolition of retail roaming charges – although it looks forward to the imminent implementation of cross-border content portability in early 2018 and the expected approval of a proposal to address unjustified geo-blocking.

Continue Reading European Digital Single Market strategy mid-term review: What happens next?

On 27 April 2017, the UK’s new Digital Economy Act came into force. Following the calling of a snap General Election for 8 June, it was brought into force during the final parliamentary wash-up. Whilst some proposals were withdrawn or watered down, a number of important provisions, notably reform of the UK’s electronic communications code which governs the relationship between telecoms operators and landowners, were brought into force without significant amendment.

Continue Reading UK’s Digital Economy Act comes into force reforming telecoms operators’ rights to access land and buildings

In January 2017, the European Commission published the proposed text of a new draft e-Privacy Regulation (ePR) as part of its ongoing drive to advance one of its key initiatives, the Digital Single Market.

Whilst the impending introduction of the GDPR has been dominating headlines for the past months, the ePR has somewhat gone under the radar. We set out the key points to look out for with regard to the ePR and who it is likely to apply to.

Continue Reading The ePrivacy Regulation: what you need to know

In 2015, the European Commission published a study (written by IDC) which provides an overview of Europe’s IoT digital ecosystem, its current status and anticipates a suggested vision of the same ecosystem in 2020. That study found:

The IoT (Internet of Things) is a pervasive innovative technology building on the universal connectivity of things and people, now moving in Europe from the pioneer phase to widespread adoption. In combination with cloud computing and Big Data the IoT is opening the new age of the hyper-connected society and acting as a powerful driver of business innovation, but also facing equally strong barriers in terms of security risks, concerns about privacy protection, and resistance to organizational change.”

Continue Reading How does the European and the US approach to IoT differ?

On 30 March 2017, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, published its annual plan for financial year 2017/18. It also published its budget and work programme for the year. The changes identified by Ofcom in relation to its responsibilities, markets and technology and the legislative framework under which it operates provide a great snapshot of current industry trends and issues.

Taking these in turn:

Continue Reading What changes did Ofcom identify in its annual plan for 2017-18?

On 30 March 2017, the UK’s Department for exiting the European Union published a white paper outlining its proposals for a Great Repeal Bill (GRB). Whilst superficially, this appears to bring clarity to the legal position after Brexit, on closer examination the GRB proposal over-simplifies the position and glosses over the very significant legislative (and consequential business) problems that will arise from the UK’s departure from the EU in the absence of a comprehensive and detailed free trade agreement between the UK and EU to enable many of the existing business arrangements to continue. Whilst much of the press commentary has focused on the impact of Brexit on the financial services sector, the same issue, disruption of existing business models as a result of leaving the single market, arises in almost every other sector of the economy, and certainly in the telecoms, media and technology sectors.

Continue Reading The logical hole in the heart of the Great Repeal Bill