Compliance monitoring programme into access to emergency services during power outages
|The availability of access to emergency services during power outages
|11 July 2022
|20 July 2023
Ofcom’s role in regulating telecoms involves ensuring that consumers are protected from harm, including as the migration to VoIP takes place. This includes ensuring that providers take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to Emergency Organisations as part of any Voice Communications Service offered.
In October 2018, we published guidance on how providers can continue to meet their obligation to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations during a power outage for those customers using voice communications services that are delivered over broadband. This compliance programme will look at whether providers are taking all necessary measures in accordance with the rules.
|Relevant legal provision(s)
General Condition A3.2(b) of the General Conditions of Entitlement
Ofcom has now closed its compliance monitoring programme which was launched as an own-initiative programme to assess the availability of access to emergency services during power outages.
As part of the programme, we obtained information from a broad range of over 30 Communication Providers (CPs) to assess whether the requirements of General Conditions A3.2(b) - and our expectations as set out in our October 2018 consultation and guidance document (PDF, 1003.8 KB) on protecting access to emergency organisations when there is a power cut at a customer’s premises - are being met.
We gathered information from a range of CPs including network providers and broadband and VoIP providers.
From our research, and the information obtained from CPs, we were able to establish:
- How providers are communicating and ensuring that their customers understand the risk that VoIP services, without specific backup, will not work in the event of a power cut
- The resilience solutions offered by providers and how customers can request them
- How providers are identifying customers who are landline dependent and consequently at risk.
The programme has not identified any significant compliance concerns which we consider require formal investigation. We welcome the collaborative engagement from CPs throughout the monitoring programme. That engagement has resulted in improvements being made to the measures they are taking to ensure they are compliant and protecting their customers.
We have also issued an open letter (PDF, 191.2 KB) to all CPs to remind them of their responsibilities and obligations under GCA3.2(b) and GCA3.3.
Ofcom has now completed an information gathering process and has obtained evidence from a number of different regulated providers (providers) offering Fibre to the Premises and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.
Ofcom is currently analysing the information received and is also meeting with a range of providers who supplied a response, to further our understanding of the measures which providers are taking to ensure uninterrupted access to Emergency Organisations during a power outage for customers using VoIP technology.
We will be assessing whether the measures being taken by providers meet our expectations as set out in our guidance and fulfil the obligations of General Condition A3.2(b). We will then consider whether any further action is required and publish our findings accordingly.
Following consumer research and writing to regulated providers on an informal basis, Ofcom has opened an own-initiative compliance monitoring programme to assess compliance by regulated providers (“providers”) with General Condition A3.2(b), which says that Regulated Providers must take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to Emergency Organisations (e.g. the relevant public police, fire, ambulance and coastguard services for a locality) as part of any voice Communications Services offered.
Following an initial information gathering stage, Ofcom will consider the responses to determine whether any further action, including enforcement, is required.
The UK’s telecoms network is undergoing significant change. Landline phone calls have traditionally been delivered over a network known as the public switched telephone network (“the PSTN”). The PSTN is old and becoming harder and more expensive to maintain, so it needs to be replaced. In future, all landline calls will be delivered over digital technology, known as Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”).
Traditional voice calls over the PSTN are delivered to premises via copper wire connections. As these lines are powered from the local telephone exchange, emergency calls can be made in the event of a power cut at the premises. In contrast, calls made over broadband using VoIP-based technology will not function in a power cut unless additional measures are in place, as the broadband equipment at the premises requires mains power to work.
Ofcom’s role in regulating telecoms involves ensuring that consumers are protected from harm, including as the migration to VoIP takes place. General Condition A3.2(b) requires providers to ensure uninterrupted access to Emergency Organisations as part of any Voice Communications Service offered (i.e. a service made available to the public for originating and receiving, directly or indirectly, national or national and international calls through a number or numbers in a national or international telephone numbering plan). In October 2018, following consultation, we published guidance on how providers can continue to meet their obligation to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations during a power outage for those customers using VoIP technology.
In the first stage of this compliance monitoring programme, Ofcom will gather information from a range of alternative network providers and VoIP providers in order to understand what they are doing to ensure that they comply with their obligations. We will also be engaging with industry to ensure that providers understand their obligations and how they apply to businesses providing Fibre to the Premises services.
Enforcement team (email@example.com)