Ofcom praises telecoms operators amidst Covid-19 crisis

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UK communications regulator, Ofcom has set out its strategy for dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak, in terms of helping consumers and businesses adapt their living and working practices, and supporting 'key' telecoms workers.

The regulator acknowledged, in a statement that the next few months will see its sectors play a vital role in supporting society, and ensuring people remain connected. It iterated that telecoms providers are working to ensure resilience across landline, broadband and mobile services as the demands on networks increase, as well as prioritising access to safety-of-life communications systems. 

Ofcom stated that it is working with the government to support the telecoms providers doing their bit in the current situation (such as removing data caps), against a backdrop of ‘operational and financial challenges.’ Because of the work undertaken by providers, a number of people in the sector have been deemed key workers by government, such as telecoms engineers and broadcasters.

Said the statement: ‘Telecoms providers are working together to monitor traffic on their networks and are keeping us informed of the measures they are taking to manage congestion effectively. We welcome the measures taken by content providers and streaming services to adapt their services where possible, so that loads on networks are spread across the day and peaks in traffic are reduced. We will continue to work closely with the government and industry to help support network resilience in the coming weeks.’

This will involve a revision to Ofcom’s Plan of Work for 2020/21 at the end of April and provide a revised timetable for our work. With immediate effect, however, the industry watchdog is suspending all existing consultation deadlines and information requests and putting on hold new consultations, decisions and information requests. ‘We understand that the implementation of new obligations may need to be delayed,’ said the statement. ‘Specifically, we are discussing with government the implementation deadlines of the European Electronic Communications Code.’

Ofcom acknowledged that the current situation has served to demonstrate just how critical investment in fibre and 5G connections is and will remain. ‘Our review on promoting investment and competition in fibre networks and the 5G auction are important building blocks for this,’ it said.

From an operational standpoint, the statement also served to reveal that, apart from its ‘dedicated teams of engineers and technicians who play a vital role in keeping the airwaves safe and functioning’, all Ofcom employees are now working from home in line with government advice. However, said the statement, ‘we remain open for business in the usual way. Please contact us by email, or get in touch with specific contacts by phone as appropriate.’ 

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