Networks & Communications
Our mission is to make communication work for everyone – by enabling a choice of accessible, secure communications services and networks, and working to empower and protect consumers.
We have a duty to further the interests of people who use communications services. We do this by promoting competition in the industries we regulate, to help drive innovation and make sure people and businesses can get the services they need.
Working with our spectrum colleagues, we’re also responsible for supporting continued competition within the mobile sector. This is to make sure mobile companies continue to invest in their networks, to bring better coverage and capacity to people across the country.
We are also increasingly focusing on making sure competition and interests are protected as communications moves online.
Communications services such as phone and broadband are essential to the way we live our lives at home, work and on the move. We know how important these services are to people, so we take action to protect them and make sure they are treated fairly by companies. The Network and Communication group has been working on new requirements that help to protect customers, such as:
- tackling the cost-of-living crisis: including promoting use of ‘social tariffs’ – cheaper broadband deals aimed at people in receipt of government benefits;
- helping people get better deals: broadband providers are now required to send customers alerts to let them know when their contract is about to end and what their best deals are;
- making it simpler to switch. we’ve made it easier for customers to change their mobile and broadband providers;
- money back when things go wrong. we’ve made sure landline and broadband customers receive compensation automatically when things go wrong, such as long outages and missed engineer appointments; and
- access to emergency services for all: we’ve introduced an emergency video relay service, which means British Sign Language users can contact emergency services in their first language.
We’re currently working on a number of important challenges that affect the way we all use communications both now and in the future. For example, protecting people – particularly vulnerable customers – as home phone services are upgraded from the decades-old network that’s in place for many currently, to new digital call technology. We’re also taking action to help stamp out scams and protect people from being ripped off by fraudsters.
We’re also responsible for regulating Royal Mail and parcel operators. This involves making sure the universal postal service – which means Royal Mail delivers across the UK six days a week, for a uniform price – is financially sustainable. We also hold the company to several service quality standards, to ensure customers are getting a reliable service. Where the company falls short, we can investigate and take action.
Under the postal regulation framework we’ve established, Royal Mail has the commercial freedom to respond to challenges such as the continued fall in the number of letters people send, while providing an affordable service for the public. Ofcom sets a price cap for second class stamps to ensure affordability, and we have a role assessing whether the specifications of the universal postal service are meeting consumers’ reasonable needs. We also regulate parcel operators more widely, including setting guidelines for consumer complaints handling.
We gather and analyse data from UK networks for our Connected Nations report. This details the state of communications services and infrastructure within the UK. The insights from this report are used by us and others to help develop policy. We also make this information available in a number of ways as part of our open data policy, as well as for consumers via our coverage checker.
We make sure everyone can contact the emergency services free of charge, as well as exploring ways to make sure location data is available to emergency services. We work with industry and the emergency services to make sure new communications technologies and services maintain the high standards of emergency calling we expect, and to better understand where things are going well and where improvements might be needed. We monitor technical developments to make sure consumers’ changing needs are met.
One of the main abuses we deal with is nuisance and scam calls and messages, so we work with industry to help minimise the harm done by these.
The resilience and reliability of networks is critical to making sure people can continue to access the services they rely on every day. Our work in this area directly aligns with how we, as an organisation, promote investment in strong secure networks for everyone across the UK.
The team also develops and promotes the adoption of network resilience guidelines and assurance measures across the communications industry. This includes working with industry, Government, and other relevant agencies to ensure resilience, availability and incident recovery policy goals, design principles and operating practices are aligned and coordinated.
As part of this work, we have been given new powers under the UK Government’s Telecoms Security Act . This requires Ofcom to monitor and assess the security of operators’ networks and services. We also make sure operators of essential services for digital infrastructure are managing security risks and testing to prepare for potential threats.
Similar to resilience incidents, all telecoms and digital infrastructure companies that we regulate must report security incidents. We assess this to make sure appropriate security has been applied and incidents are appropriately handled.
This team is where experts work to make sure Ofcom can anticipate, or even influence, the technologies that will support future communications networks, including mobile and broadband networks.