Ofcom considers radical shake-up


Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards (pictured) said the industry body would look to either remove or adapt regulation following the conclusion of its latest consultation.

In addition it will look at alternate mobile market models, assessing whether they provide a better customer experience than the current UK model. It will also look at ways to extend mobile coverage across the country.

The consultation, an assessment of the mobile sector titled ‘Mobile citizens, mobile consumers’, is scheduled to conclude in November after a period of gathering feedback from industry representatives.

It is a separate investigation from that into misselling, which is expected to conclude in the coming weeks. Ofcom is to announce its decision on General Condition 23, and whether mobile networks will be held liable for misselling conducted by their retailers – to the tune of 10 per cent of their overall income.

Besides consumer complaints, Richards said the new consultation was also fuelled by changes in mobile technology, such as mobile broadband, the development of femtocells and the re-release of spectrum.

He said: "We want to ask whether there are opportunities for deregulation or changes in regulation that will help promote innovation and competition.

"New technologies require us to ask that question; to remove regulation where it stands in the way and adapt it where necessary.

"We have had people say to us there is regulation that could stand in the way of the development of femtocells and we want to hear from others to see if this is the case.

"We’ll also make a clear assessment of whether there are any regulations we can eliminate or simplify to promote innovation across the sector."

Richards also set out plans to investigate whether an overhaul of the mobile billing model was necessary, with Ofcom set to look at models where the user pays for receiving calls.

"We want to ask a very clear and direct question about whether there is a better model than the current regime for mobile termination," he said.

He added mobile termination rates charged between networks to connect calls are set to come down year-on-year until 2011, but Ofcom would begin to look beyond that time frame for a "superior alternative".

Ofcom director of competition policy David Stewart said the body should do what it can to nurture the mobile broadband market – to deliver a customer experience comparable to fixed internet – although Edwards said regulation of this sector was not yet necessary.

Telecoms advisory group Analysys Mason conducted a report for Ofcom as part of its consultation.

Partner Mike Grant said: "The current UK regulatory framework governing the delivery of mobile services was established to promote competition in infrastructure-based services that were delivered solely through mobile communications networks.

"With users increasingly focussed on consumption of content across multiple networks, adjustments to the UK regulatory framework are likely to be required if the benefits of the emerging trends are to be fully realised."