1.1 This statement sets out Ofcom's reasons for approving, for the purposes of General Condition 15.3 and 15.5, BT's proposed Next Generation Text Relay ("NGTR") service. The formal notice of Ofcom's approval is included in this statement.
1.2 Relay services enable people with hearing and/or speech impairments to communicate with others through telephone or textphone equipment or other devices such as PCs and tablets. A relay assistant acts as an intermediary to convert speech to text and vice versa for the two parties.
1.3 On 17 October 2012 Ofcom published a statement entitled 'Review of Relay Services: Decision on the introduction of Next Generation Text Relay' ("the 2012 Statement"). The 2012 Statement set out Ofcom's decision to amend General Condition 15 in order to require communications providers (both fixed and mobile) to provide access to their customers to an improved form of relay service, referred to as NGTR. The 2012 Statement followed a detailed review of the provision of relay services in the UK, in the light of Ofcom's obligations under European and domestic law, changes in user requirements, and technological developments since the existing text relay service was introduced.
1.4 In the 2012 Statement we set out the criteria by which we would assess an NGTR service submitted for approval. We also set out the Key Performance Indicators with which we said we would expect an NGTR service to be capable of complying.
1.5 BT submitted an application to Ofcom for the approval of an NGTR service. We have assessed BT's application and, in November 2013, we consulted on our proposal to approve BT's proposed NGTR service under Condition 15 of the General Conditions of Entitlement (the "Consultation").
1.6 Ofcom received nine responses to the Consultation. Having carefully considered those responses (which are described more fully in this document), we have decided to approve BT's proposed NGTR service. This means that BT can offer its NGTR service to its own customers and provide wholesale access to other communications providers so their customers can access the service.
1.7 The approval will take effect on 6 March 2014 and will remain in place unless otherwise revoked by Ofcom. As we explained in the 2012 Statement and Consultation, this approval is conditional on that service being capable of meeting, and continuing in practice to meet, the relevant criteria on an ongoing basis. Therefore, whilst we consider that the proposed service meets, and should be capable of ongoing compliance with, the approval criteria, we will monitor the performance of the approved NGTR service once it is in operation to ensure it continues to meets the approval criteria on an ongoing basis.