Draft Annual Plan 2012/13

29 June 2010

Ofcom's Draft Annual Plan sets out our work programme for 2012/13

1.1 This Draft Annual Plan presents Ofcom's strategic purposes, proposed priorities and work programme for the twelve months from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013.

1.2 We encourage those with an interest in Ofcom's work to respond to this consultation by 17 February 2012. Your views will help inform our Final Annual Plan statement for 2012/13, which will be published at the start of our next financial year in April 2012.

Our strategic purposes guide our draft priorities for the year ahead

1.3 Ofcom's principal duty is to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters and to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition. Therefore, the needs of consumers and citizens are at the heart of our programme of work.

1.4 Ofcom established five strategic purposes last year, which reflect our duties to citizens and consumers in the communications sector, and frame our programme of work over the coming years.

1.5 Ofcom's work programme for 2012/13 is underpinned by these strategic purposes, and informed by:

  • last year's priorities and our progress against these;
  • wider market developments, including the changing consumer use of communications services;
  • legislative changes to our duties, most notably our new responsibility for the regulation of postal services; and
  • areas where Ofcom provides technical and industry expertise to advise government.

The communications sector plays a vital economic and cultural role in the UK

1.6 Our focus is on supporting a healthy communications sector in which consumers are supported and protected, a range of high quality content is available, and consumers and citizens benefit from competition and innovation in services delivered over a capable infrastructure.

1.7 Consumer behaviour and new technologies are driving change in the market and Ofcom needs to ensure that its work reflects, and responds to, these developments:

  • Broadband take-up continues to grow and has now reached nearly three-quarters (74%) of all UK households, although there is some variance by locality. The roll-out of superfast broadband services also varies across the UK, and is more extensive in urban environments and where public funding has been provided.
  • There has been significant growth in smartphone take-up, with three in ten mobile users now using a smartphone handset, increasing mobile connectivity to the internet.
  • Nearly all homes in the UK (96%) now have digital TV, as we approach completion of digital switchover in 2012, with a third of households having access to HD channels.

Ofcom has a duty to support the interests of consumers across the UK

1.8 Our duties reflect our responsibilities towards consumers across the whole of the UK. In particular, we must have regard to the interests of persons in the different parts of the UK and of those living in rural and urban areas.

1.9 As part of our statutory duties, we will continue to report on the take-up, availability and quality of service of communications services within the nations and English regions. These sources of data will be made publicly available to government, communications providers and consumers.

1.10 During 2012-13 our proposed priorities will support consumers across the UK. The areas of particular interest to the nations include:

  • mobile not-spots;
  • superfast broadband roll-out;
  • the availability of local TV and community radio; and
  • the overall provision of communications services in the nations.

Ofcom now has responsibility for the regulation of postal services

1.11 In the past year we have implemented new and revised duties, which require a number of changes to Ofcom's role and responsibilities. The most significant of these is our new responsibility for regulation of the UK's postal services.

1.12 Ofcom took over regulation of postal services from Postcomm on 1 October 2011. This followed the recommendations of the 2010 Hooper Report into the postal services sector, which were accepted by government and implemented through the Postal Services Act 2011.

1.13 The postal sector is essential to the UK economy and society. It is increasingly part of a much wider communications sector and is influenced by the growing take-up and use of other communications services.

1.14 In 2010, 16 billion letters were delivered to 28.2 million addresses. The universal postal service, which ensures that these letters are delivered to every address in the UK, six days a week, at an affordable and geographically uniform price, is highly valued by the public.

1.15 Under the Postal Services Act, we have a primary duty to carry out our functions in relation to post in a way that will continue to secure the provision of a universal postal service. In fulfilling this, we will represent the interests of both residential and business customers.

We are also implementing new and revised duties in other areas

1.16 There are other amendments to UK and European legislation that have changed our duties. They include:

  • developing the framework to implement provisions in the Digital Economy Act aimed at addressing online copyright infringement; and
  • in May 2011 we implemented the revised provisions of the European Framework for Electronic Communications.

Our proposed priorities for 2012/13

1.17 The priority areas in Figure 1 will be our primary focus over the next financial year. Some of our priority areas in last year's work programme will continue into 2012/13, alongside a number of new areas of work.

1.18 We will assess the successful delivery of our proposed priorities for 2012/13 against the positive outcomes we are seeking to secure for citizens and consumers. To achieve this, we have identified interim and final outcomes for each of our priorities (see page 26) and we will measure our progress towards delivering these in our Annual Report.

1.19 In addition to our priorities, we will continue to deliver important services to other stakeholders (such as licensing access to the radio spectrum), as well as a number of other work areas that are an important part of our 2012/13 programme. We will deliver these services in the most efficient and effective way possible, making real-term cost savings every year.

1.20 We will also continue to remain responsive to new issues, emerging market failures, concerns that affect consumers across the UK, and government requests, focusing on those areas where we can make the most difference.