New Ofcom CEO considers deregulation of telecoms market

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Sharon White became CEO in December and said competition from US could lead to cuts in red tape 

Ofcom’s new CEO Sharon White is eyeing deregulation of the telecoms market in response to the radical shift in how people use the internet, talk and consume content.

In her first interview since becoming CEO at the UK regulator in December, White told the Financial Times that competition from US internet groups such as Facebook and Youtube was changing the telecoms and television markets.

The new CEO, who took over from Ed Richards who had served in the role for eight years, said she is considering whether the entry of “newer players and technology” into the internet access and telecoms market should result in a “lighter approach” to regulation.

“Convergence has started to happen in a very rapid timeframe, be it fixed and mobil or the blurring of the distinctions between the traditional telco and traditional media company,” White explained to the FT.

“We will see if there are ways to promote competition. Are there areas we can deregulate? But with the consumer at the centre of it all.”

Last month, Ofcom announced a strategic review in to the entire telecoms market, the first it has held in more than a decade.

White, who has 25 years experience working in the public sector, has joined the regulator during a period of mass convergence in the industry, with BT set to buy EE for £12.5 billion and Three owner Hutchison Whampoa in agreement to buy rival operator O2 for £10.25 billion.

The big telecoms players are moving towards bundled content, with BT and Virgin already offering quad-play services (mobile, fixed line, broadband and TV), and Vodafone set to join them later this year. Sky has also announced plans to enter the mobile market launching an MVNO on O2.

White said that paid TV is a growing area of concern, with online content providers such as Netflix causing dramatic change over the last decade.

She added: “The question of whether the pay-TV world needs a fundamental rethink is an issue I will come to, probably after the investigation (in to Premier League rights).” Virgin Media has asked Ofcom to investigate the bidding process for rights to show football.

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