Ofcom today published its 2015/16 Annual Plan (PDF, 750.8 KB), outlining its strategy and work programme for the next financial year.
This plan follows a detailed consultation with stakeholders and sets out how Ofcom will seek to ensure the market best serves the needs of consumers and businesses, including the recently announced Strategic Review of Digital Communications.
Ofcom is undertaking an overarching Strategic Review of Digital Communications to help ensure the UK’s digital communications markets can meet the needs of consumers and businesses.
The sector has transformed over the last decade and the review will assess the implications of current and future developments and to what extent regulation is needed. It also considers investment, competition and innovation across fixed and mobile telecoms to ensure the sector delivers positive outcomes for consumers and businesses.
Separately, Ofcom will continue work to make sure switching is as easy as possible for consumers of fixed and mobile services, including bundles. This will involve completing implementation of ‘gaining provider led’ switching processes for fixed voice and broadband services, and proposals for further reforms, as needed, later in 2015.
Ofcom will continue its work to ensure competition in communications markets and promote choice for consumers. This includes assessing whether providers are meeting the communications needs of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
In areas where a market is not best serving SMEs, Ofcom will assess what can be done through a range of initiatives, including the business connectivity market review and promoting improvements in network availability.
Ofcom will focus on protecting consumers from harm in areas such as nuisance calls and unexpectedly high mobile bills. Clearer pricing for phone numbers starting 08, 09 and 118 will be introduced in the summer, and ‘080’ and ‘116’ calls will become free from mobiles.
As well as maintaining audience confidence in broadcast content, Ofcom will promote child safety online working with other organisations.
Working with Government and industry, Ofcom will promote better mobile coverage.
Ofcom also started a review of factors affecting Royal Mail’s ability to deliver the universal postal service. This considers Royal Mail’s efficiency and developments in the parcel delivery sector. Ofcom continues to monitor the development of direct delivery competition, and can intervene swiftly to secure the universal service if competition is threatening its future.
Separately, Ofcom will progress efforts to promote wider availability of high speed broadband to serve consumers and businesses.
Demand for spectrum, and in particular spectrum for mobile internet services, is growing rapidly. To help meet this demand, Ofcom is planning to award spectrum for mobile data services in the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands and will take steps towards making the 700 MHz band available for future mobile broadband use.
Ofcom is also representing UK interests in international negotiations during November 2015 to agree how best to use spectrum effectively in the future.
The work outlined above will be funded by a mixture of fees and charges collected from the stakeholders Ofcom regulates, and grant-in-aid.
Ofcom’s budget for the financial year 2015/16 is £114.3m. This represents a 3.4% real terms reduction to Ofcom’s budget for the current financial year and a reduction of 35.7% in real terms, on a like-for-like basis compared with the budget at the start of Ofcom’s expenditure reduction programme in 2010/11.
In addition to savings over the next financial year, Ofcom will continue to work with other regulators to share best practice and maximise efficiencies wherever possible.